Rift splits Tunisian LGBT rights advocates

Associations in the Tunisian Coalition for LGBTQI+ Rights have disassociated themselves from the LGBTQI rights group Shams, citing disagreements over outing politicians,  sexual harassment and Israel.

Location of Tunisia in North Africa
Location of Tunisia in North Africa

When the Tunisian Coalition for LGBTQI+ Rights was formed last year, Shams (Arabic for “sun”) was one of the founding members. 

Coalition members Chouf, Damj and Mawjoudin (Mawjoudin We Exist) signed the following statement. A statement from Shams in its own defense is printed below.

Tunis, the 25th of April 2018 — We, member organizations of the Tunisian Coalition for LGBTQI+ Rights, believe in and work for well determined values and ethics in order to create a safe space for our community’s members. We fight for the protection and the anonymity of our members as well as those who refer to us for help. We give a lot of interest to the human aspect in the work we do, and insist on the need to create a strong community, able to count on its members.

In this context, it is important to recall that Shams organization is not part of the Tunisian Coalition for LGBTQI+ Rights and that we, member organizations, have decided to no longer collaborate directly or indirectly with this organization for the following reasons:

  • The “outing” practices that this organization constantly uses go against the coalition’s values, regarding the protection of private life and space. On several occasions, Shams organization uses the “outing” as a tool to challenge the homophobic statements of certain public figures. Although the coalition denounces all positions using homophobia and transphobia as a main argument, it condemns the “outing” method.
  • The announcement of the new coalition's report on the rights of LGBTQI people in Tunisia.
    The cover of “State of Affairs,” the 2017 report by the Tunisian Coalition about the rights of LGBTQI people.

    The violation of the private life of vulnerable LGBTQI + individuals, who have recourse to this organization, by exposing them to media, in order to tell their stories, without assessing the legal and social consequences that could be generated through this exposure. We consider that it is the role of the organizations to protect these individuals and that consent can be valid only if the person is able to bear the consequences that could eventually result from this visibility, we believe that individuals who are in a precarious situation and who are very vulnerable Cannot give informed consent.

  • In fact, the coalition members, as well as other allied organizations, have repeatedly received complaints of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior towards minors, committed by the president of Shams association. The coalition asked Shams’ executive bureau to make a firm decision on this, the answers have always been negative.
  • Similarly, the position of the president of Shams association which calls for total normalization with the Zionist entity, which goes against our principles and our ethics.

It is therefore necessary to recall that the TUNISIAN COALITION FOR LGBTQI+ RIGHTS refuses to be affiliated with Shams organization, and that the actions and activities of Shams do not relate or represent in any way the Coalition.

Contacted by this blog, Shams stated:

Shams does not respond to what it sees as slander and defamation by associations that claim to be LGBT, but whose founding documents do not mention anything about LGBT rights. It is understandable that the international media success of Shams and its advocacy for the LGBT community has aroused their envy.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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