According to Tętu, a Tunisian man is at risk of being deported from France, despite his civil partnership with a Frenchman.
24 year old Ashraf met Olivier in 2009 and they got a civil partnership last summer (France’s parliament rejected a gay marriage bill in July).
He arrived on a student visa in 2007 but when the visa expired, he became undocumented, which appears to be the reason why his residency claim has not yet been accepted.
“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 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 recognized relationship with a Frenchmen there is no automatic right for him to stay. But because he is in a civil partnership, this would put him at risk if returned to his home country.
In Tunisia homosexuality is punishable with three years imprisonment. The victory of an Islamist party in Tunisia’s elections has left Ashraf ‘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 although Islamists are telling the international media one thing — we won’t touch the gays — 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.
Photo of Ashraf and Olivier from Tętu