LGBTQ Community in Tunisia Forcibly Outed to Public, Face Police Brutality: Activists

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12/10/21

Tunisian LGBTQ activists are demanding change after a series of brutal attacks and harassment campaigns. The Associated Press interviewed activists in the North African country, including Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality President Badr Baabou. He was subjected to an attack in October by a police officer and an accomplice, in which he was thrown to the ground and beaten. Baabou claims that the duo justified it because of his “insulting” attempts to file complaints against mistreatment. “This was not the first time that I had been attacked by a policeman, but I was really surprised. The attack was horrifying,” he said. “They aimed for my head…at a moment they stood on my neck. This was very symbolic for me, as if they wanted to reduce me to silence.” Police brutality cases such as Baabou’s are not the only thing that many LGBTQ individuals in Tunisia face. They are often denied employment opportunities, face homelessness, and are even outed to the public by posting drone photos of activists online. Activist Rania Amdouni’s outing led to an online harassment campaign with ties to Tunisian police unions. She was harassed by officers while attempting to file a complaint and subsequently arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer. She received a six-month prison sentence but was released after 19 days. “Why did the police arrest me?” she asked AP. “Because I was among the main organizers of the protest, because I was very visible, because I openly declare that I’m a lesbian, that I’m a feminist, that I’m queer.” Police attacks and other forms of harassment are becoming more public, according to Human Rights Watch researcher Rasha Younes. She said that a “climate of criminalization” around LGBTQ people has led to officers becoming bolder than ever in their methods. “Officers feel empowered to enact whatever form of violence they want, knowing that they will get away with it because the law is on their side,” she said. Amdouni is currently living in France under asylum, while Baabou’s case is receiving an internal investigation.

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