What I have learnt over the last two and a half years is — that Tunisia has a huge number of committed and brave people — who fight for the human rights of queer people.”

Dokumentation der Rede von Guido Schäfer (Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung) zur Eröffnung des queeren Mawjoudin Film Festival in Tunesien

Dear Members and Friends of Mawjoudin,
Dear Guest,

My name is Guido Schäfer — and I work for the Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation, a Human Rights Organization based in Germany.

I am honoured and happy to be here today — to be part of this amazing project — and I am grateful for this great opportunity of speaking to — and with you.

I am very proud to be given the chance to publically thank the team of Mawjoudin.

All of the team members worked tremendously hard over the last half year to make this event possible — especially and notably Karam Aouini. Karam invested a lot of time and energy in this project – by being creative and making this an extraordinary project in many different ways.

I would also like to thank Nadia Touati for taking care of all financial matters.

I am grateful and honoured to thank the German Foreign Office represented today through members of the German Embassy for supporting this project and I would also like to say, thank you to the Institute Francaise for having us today.

The Hirschfeld-Eddy-Foundation (HEF) is the Human Rights Organization connected to the LSVD, the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, which was established back in 1990.

Our Foundation as such was founded in 2007 with the aim and focus on providing assistance through international networking and through cooperation with LGBTIQ partner organizations in the global south and Eastern Europe.

We support LGBTIQ human rights work on a national and international level through enlightenment by raising public awareness and through forming alliances. We constantly work hard to influence those who are responsible for Foreign Policies, the Development of Cooperation and policies on Human Rights. We support the work of human rights advocates and promote campaigns against homophobia and judicial persecution.

Through this network I met Ali Bousselmi of Mawjoudin as well as other activists from Tunisia and the MENA region in Berlin in 2015. The HEF invited activists – we prefer to use the term “defenders of human rights” – to Berlin and we organized a conference to provide information about the situation of LGBTIQ in the MENA region to the Public and to German politicians.

And since this conference in 2015, Ali and I have constantly networked together in a progressive and positive way. Back in October 2016, Ali helped the HEF with a media-workshop, which we held in Tunis.

The relationship with all the amazingly committed and brave people of Mawjoudin kept developing further and further, and finally led to our first official cooperation: This very first Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival !

What I have learnt over the last two and a half years is — that Tunisia has a huge number of committed and brave people — who fight for the human rights of queer people. Many of those are queer people, many of them are allies.

I have had the honour to become personally acquainted with some of these brave and courageous people.

These people are part of different organizations and have, sometimes different ideas and different approaches to improve the situation for LGBTIQ people in Tunisia. These ideas and ways to approach issues differently can only further the underlying cause. I wish them all the power and the stamina to keep on going. Be proud of what you have all achieved since 2011 – and let these achievements be your motivation for tomorrow. Just a few years ago, this Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival would have not been possible at all!

From my own experience in Germany — and through my work for the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany – I can say — you will need stamina, persistence, and even more — patience. Only last summer we achieved marriage equality. Our fight started back in the early 90s, a time when the German Criminal Code still discriminated sex between men. The injustice established through Article 175 in that Code was only abolished in 1994. And only last year the last victims of this regulation were rehabilitated and compensated

Changes can be achieved through very different means. Art is an important tool. People of any sex, sexual orientation and gender identity can be connected through Art. Art can create and support understanding and passion. Nada Mezni Hafaiedh’s “Upon the Shadow” is a very good example. This film illustrates the life and work of brave Amina Sboui and the situation of many LGBTQ people in Tunisia. Together with you, I am looking forward to watching this marvellous piece of Art — this great tool for creating change today. This will be my second time watching this film — I am sure I will be touched and motivated as much as when I watched this film for the first time back in Cologne in Germany.

Thank you for your attention. Enjoy the first Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival!

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