Friday, 30 December 2011

Fear stalks gay married Tunisian in France

Ashraf and Olivier picture Têtu
By Paul Canning

Têtu is reporting that a Tunisian gay man married to a Frenchman is at risk of being returned and the couple split up.

24 year old Ashraf met Olivier in 2009 and they 'married' last summer - in France there is a civil partnership called Pacs which is also available to opposite-sex couples. France's parliament rejected a gay marriage bill in July.

He arrived on a student visa in 2007 but became undocumented, which appears to be the reason why his residency claim has not yet been accepted.

Ashraf says:
"I wanted to escape Tunisia, land of my childhood. The country where my family, once my homosexuality was revealed, chose to cut all relations with me. To abandon me. The same country where intimidation and violence made my life unbearable. The same country where four bearded men tried one night to make me give up my sexual orientation, holding a knife to my throat."
For a young gay Maghreb (North African) France is a "homo Eldorado" he says, as seen on television and on the Internet: "I just came for a normal life in France ..."

But there is a vast distance between his naive dream and reality. His lawyer points out that even though he is in a recognised relationship with a Frenchmen there is no automatic right for him to stay. But because he is in a Pacs this would put him at risk if returned.

In Tunisia homosexuality is punishable with three years imprisonment. The victory of an Islamist party in Tunisia's elections has left him 'every day, scared', afraid that he will be stopped for an identity check, then forcibly returned to Tunisia.

Writing of the rise of the Islamists, Tarek, Tunisia Editor of the Gay Middle East website, said that the Islamists are telling the international media one thing - we won't touch the gays - but the reality on the ground is very different.
"LGBT people’s suffering in Tunisia started a long time before the election but I fear its results may make things worse," he wrote.
Tarek and others have reported that Tunisian gays have gone even further underground as increasingly confident Islamists strong arm others into their way of life.

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