A Queer Film Festival in Tunisia — Where Being Gay Is Illegal

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05/14/2019

For four days in March, a sanctuary for queer and trans people sprung up in Tunisia — a country where being gay is illegal. Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival, in its second year, differs significantly from other film festivals: some participants wear badges that read “No Photos;” attendees were invited through a private Facebook page and were told not to geo-tag locations on social media; venues were revealed only in the final days before the festival. The event, put on by the nongovernmental organization Mawjoudin — “we exist” in Arabic — included film screenings, workshops, a photo exhibit, lectures and, of course, an after-party. The festival is just one element of the organization’s mission, which includes advocating for the repeal of Article 230 (a law created during the French colonial period that criminalized homosexuality and still stands), and defending the rights of the “marginalized, stigmatized and criminalized,” in the words of Cyrine Hammemi, 24, the festival’s regional coordinator. To complicate things further, in Tunisia, trans people are not addressed at all in legal terms, and are lumped together in the otherness that is considered gayness.

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