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Tunisia militia raids pro-gay charity that criticized minister

Tunisia militia raids pro-gay charity that criticized minister

The office of a pro gay rights charity was vandalized and robbed late last week following its critique of Tunisia’s minister of human rights who said gays will not be tolerated in the country.

Yamin Thabet, the president of the attacked Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities (ATSM) told AFP: ‘We know who did it, it is the League for the Protection of the Revolution that threatened us several times’.

The League for the Protection of the Revolution, an Islamist militia with links to the ruling Ennahda party, has been previously involved in several clashes with human rights advocates.

The attack followed ATSM’s critique of Tunisia’s human rights minister who said his country won’t tolerate gays and will not bow down to international pressure to decriminalize homosexuality.

During an Al-Jazeera Arabic TV interview (6 January) commemorating two years to Tunisia’s revolution, Samir Dilou, was asked: ‘will the government sign human right treaties which contain chapters that are seen by extremists as against Islam?’

Dilou: ‘We are trying to reconcile with our religion and culture, and at the same time, to be on the side of progress, and be one of the countries that accepts and signs the human rights treaties.

But if some people think that we will abandon our principles, this is unacceptable, we will never accept blackmail’.

Journalist: ’During some international events, you were asked to give your point of view about homosexuality and other embarrassing subjects, what did you answer?’

Dilou: ’All the demands that are against our principles, we simply rejected them, we don’t get intimidated, we refuse to decriminalize homosexuality, and we refuse to allow blasphemy.’

Journalist: ‘But there is a risk, it is that you threaten individual freedom’.

Dilou: ‘All societies have red lines, we have ours, and we will never accept [homosexuality] or cross them’.

ATSM released a statement (8 January) criticizing Dilou saying: ‘Homosexuality will remain criminalized within our new constitution as it apparently not compatible with our sacrosanct Arab-Muslim identity… Here’s the resistance to the universality of human rights.

‘In contrast paedophilia and forced child marriage are tolerated live on TV by a head of a party [Ennhada] because it creates a buzz. Everything’s well in Tunisia – the friendly country’.

In the early morning of the following day (9 January) ATSM’s office was raided and vandalized, while important computer equipment was also taken.

LGBT rights campaigners said that such attacks are encouraged by the anti-gay statements of the ruling party Ennhada, and see little reason to join today’s (14 January) mass celebrations commemorating two years to Tunisia’s revolution.

Speaking with Gay Star News, Fadi, editor of GayDayMag, Tunisia’s LGBT magazine said: ‘Today is a day to re-express demands not to celebrate a revolution.

‘It is a day to question what the government and the constitutional assembly are doing – causing civil liberties to go backwards.

Islamic and Arab history is rich of gay friendly stories, and therefore an integral part of our society and principles.

Saying homosexuality is opposed to it is not only a lie and denial of human rights but encourages violence and hate like the attack on ATSM’s office.

‘While many flags are flown around the country today, one is conspicuous by its absence: the rainbow flag.

‘The the reason is simple: the lack of security for LGBT people and women directly relates to the growth of religious extremism and anti-gay sentiments that is encouraged by the post-revolutionary government’.

Tarek, the Tunisia editor of GayMiddleEast and an LGBT rights advocate told GSN: ‘The ruling Ennahda party have made things worse for LGBT people in post-revolutionary Tunisia. 

‘Dilou consistently made statements that being gay is an illness, not a human rights – even rejecting out of hand calls by amnesty to retract his statements.

‘Under Ben Ali’s dictatorship the anti-gay law was used very rarely to name and shame dissidents, but now it’s turned into a populist argument calculated to inflame public sentiment and hate in order to gain power.

‘It is an irony that article 230 of the Tunisian Criminal Code, which punishes gay sex with six months to three years imprisonment, was introduced by the French colonial system rather than Islamic lawmakers’.

Watch Samir Dilour reject LGBT rights on TV (in Arabic – from 7:35):