Lesbian Spring in Tunisia?!

Amina (c) privatAmina, 21, Sidi BouSaid, Tunesia

When I talk to Amina and listen to what she says I am deeply impressed by the strength she shows, her power, her energy. I wonder, if a young woman of 21 years can seriously be so self confident and positive about what she does. Amina gives home to young people who have been thrown out of their homes by their parents because they are gay or lesbian. Amina just finished her High School and her plan is to study political science in the near future. She lives in a place called Sidi BouSaid. It’s a small town north east of Tunis, with nice small houses painted in white and blue. Up the hill you have a beautiful view of the open Mediterranean Sea. Amina lives in the neighborhood on the top of the hill. She says that the people who live here like her. They know her well, although she is different. The waiter in the local restaurant where I am having dinner with her obliviously knows her and when communicating they kind of play with each other. It seems to me that this older man has a lot of respect and appreciation for Amina. Her arms are covered with tattoos and she likes to smoke and to enjoy a glass of wine.

A divided village – Support of the Mayor

She considers herself not to be religious, although recently she prayed. While 5 men, all of them living down the hill in Sidi BouSaid, violently tried to enter her house, she prayed that these men do not enter and harm the friends to which she offers protection. Her friends and her managed to defend their place. Sidi BouSaid is divided.

On the one hand, many people in the neighborhood down the hill don’t like her. They don’t like what she does and they probably don’t like her appearance. Some time ago they started a protest by collecting signatures, seeking to force her out of Sidi BouSaid. They wanted her to leave Sidi BouSaid. About 800 people signed; nearly all of them live down the hill. After this, the initiators invited for a public protest at a central square.

It was then, when the mayor of Sidi BouSaid spoke up. Amina doesn’t know him personally and they never met. But what he said impressed her: Everybody in Tunisia is free to live his or her live. You may like the way the person lives it, you may not like it. But all people have to accept that only the law constitutes the limits of this freedom.

Things have changed in Tunisia over the last two years.

Amina is so proud of this support. And she believes that this would not have happened two years ago. Things have changed in Tunisia over the last two years. The new constitution from 2014 is surprisingly liberal and slowly starts changing the country. Also for LGBTI. More and more persons of public media openly confirm their support for Tunisian LGBTI. There are backlashes, but they can’t stop the process the country is undergoing. Hopefully.

Some days ago Amina was interviewed by a Tunisian TV station. The reporters asked about the protests in her village, simultaneously giving her the opportunity to publicly redeem herself by openly denying her “different” sexual orientation. Amina objected during the live interview and outed herself, making it crystal clear to the audience that she loves women. It was the first gay outing on Tunisian TV. And to me it appears that it made her even stronger. She is a public figure now. And she seems to like it.

Amina participates in workshops arranged by Netzwerk Politikatelier e.V. in cooperation with Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation and funded by Ifa, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen. The workshops take place in Tunis and deal with website content development and professional writing. About 10 Tunisian Human Rights Defenders are participating. Guido Schäfer of Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation spoke to Amina in the course of this project.

Guido Schäfer

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