Ahmed Ben Amor, 20, whose touching story JusticeInfo reported in February 2016, made an attempt at suicide on July 9. Homophobic threats had become too much for this brilliant young man, who was until two years ago studying at the élite Mahdia school on the Tunisian coast. His life changed when he was rejected by his family because of his homosexuality. He was also excluded from all high schools in Tunisia and harassed by police for the same reason, in a country where homosexuality is still a criminal offence.
In Tunisia, Article 230 of the Penal Code, which dates from 1920, provides for three months in jail for people practising “sodomy and lesbianism”.
“At 10 AM on this morning of Saturday July 9, Ahmed Ben Amor attempted suicide by swallowing a large amount of medicines,” said a statement from the Shams (sun) association, created in May 2015 to defend the LGBT cause in Tunisia and of which Ahmed Ben Amor is Vice-President. “He has been hospitalized in a state of coma.” The association added that it believes this desperate act was the result of “death threats that Ahmed has been receiving for several months”.
“We are dealing with terrorists, not homos like you!”
A few days before, the young man had found an inscription in blood outside his house and on his dented car, whose tyres had been slashed with a knife. “Next time, the knife will be planted in your head,” it read.
It was not the first time he had received serious threats at his home. In May, he was burgled and his laptop computer was stolen. The burglars left behind posters covered in insults and threats.
“I informed the police and asked for protection, but they laughed in my face,” said Ahmed Ben Amor, who now seems to be recovering. “They said we are currently dealing with terrorists and not homos like you. My existence has no value to them. I took to posting more protests on Facebook, whilst experiencing daily frustration and depression.”
Already persecuted for publicly admitting his sexual identity and working so the LGBT community in Tunisia would no longer live in the shadows of society, he saw the level of harassment and violence against him multiply after he appeared in April in a very popular talk show on the private station Al Hiwar Ettounssi. He was face to face with a conservative imam who bombarded him with religious arguments, and the moderator did not intervene at all or try to defend him as a guest.
Admitted to a French school
The fallout of the programme was terrible. During their Friday sermons, imams accused him of apostasy and called for his death in several Tunisian mosques, “with the authorities maintaining total silence”, he says.
He left for Paris, where he took refuge with friends for three weeks. He then returned and denounced on social networks and the Shams Facebook page a new homophobic campaign banning “dogs and homosexuals” from several restaurants,
But people in the street were even more hostile. “Everyone recognized me,” says Ahmed Ben Amor. “And few were friendly. Every day I awoke with the feeling of being a survivor. At 20, I was surprised I was still alive. That is why I decided to try and end it all.”
The Shams Vice-President, still on anti-depressants, now seems more determined than ever to continue his fight to ensure that the LGBT community recovers its lost dignity and honour. And the young man has been admitted into a French-administered high school in Tunisia, offering new hope. His dream of becoming a lawyer seems possible again…