More than one year after the revolution, there is little hope for emancipation and full equality before the law for the LGBT population in Tunisia. Even though Tunisia counted with a strong civil society, somewhat more developed than that in neighboring countries, the situation on ground has remained more or less unchanged.
Last October after “moderate” Islamist party Ennahda scored a victory in the elections – setting the mood for what would happen in Egypt later and probably a trend for the entire Arab Spring – they offered assurance to women, gays and drinkers, as if they were some sort of minority that needed special protection in a democracy.
Ennahda party spokesman Riad Chaibi said to the media that the newly elected Islamist-led government would not pursue the use of alcohol or punish atheism and homosexuality. According to Chaibi, “individual freedoms and human rights are enshrined principles”. He also added that “atheists and homosexuals are a reality in Tunisia and have a right to exist.”
The reality however has proven very different: Even though it has been for long considered the most progressive Arab country and has made some improvements in its human rights record – also legislative –, the reports from human rights organizations say that the government has been at best slow in serving justice to those wronged by the former regime during the uprising.
LGBT people however have received nothing of the soft approach promised: Last month, appointed human rights minister Samir Dilou made openly homophobic remarks on a TV talk show for which he has shown absolutely no regret and his press secretary insisted that Dilou believes that being gay is an illness rather than a human right.
At the same time there has been a curious renaissance of homophobic slurs used in politics in which Islamist and liberal parties accuse each other of being homosexuals; incidents that went as far as to implicate the new interior minister in a gay sex video scandal.
The last in a long line of small incidents, slurs, threats and accusations against LGBT in Tunisia took place yesterday when Tunisia’s first gay (online) magazine was hacked. Hacking threats had been issued before and finally paid off on the morning of March 10th. The threats were anonymous and it has not been possible to identity who is behind the cyber-attack.
Hackers succeeding in accessing most of GayDay magazine’s internet accounts (E-mail, main site and Twitter). GayDay, Tunisia’s first gay magazine was renamed by hackers to “Garbage Day Magazine”, what was a clear homophobic reference to the content of the magazine, one of the first of its kind in the Arab world and the first in the post-Arab Spring scenario.
The attack took place exactly one day after the Tunisian magazine published an investigative article – produced jointly with Gay Star News, Gay Middle East and Iraqi activists – about the massacre of emo and gay people in Iraq. The news of this massacre went all over the world and has now been reported by every major news outlet.
According to GayDay magazine, hackers removed all contributors’ accounts and posted a photo titled “GarbageDayMagazine: Never accept your DIRT and MOLD”. They also changed the security questions and recovery e-mail accounts.
Speaking to BikyaMasr.com, Fadi Krouj, editor and founder of the magazine, expressed that the hacking news was met with numerous sympathy reactions and announced that GayDay magazine has restored full control over its online presence.
He added: “We call upon activists not to panic because of such incident and to keep their continuous fight. Serious security measures need to be performed to protect online movement.”
According to him, GayDay magazine’s e-mail and related online accounts do not contain any sensitive personal information that might endanger anyone and that the hacking attempt was not harmful to anyone but yet, it was an invasion of collective property.
Recently it has been reported in different outlets that the future of the LGBT rights and organizations in the entire region remains highly uncertain and events have only confirmed the trends. Newly formed authorities in Tunisia and Egypt turn a blind eye to the plight not only of LGBT but also of women and other minorities threatened under Islamist rule.
While the hacking incident of GayDay magazine was minor, it is a clear sign that people cannot rely on authorities to protect their basic freedoms and that instead, as it was the case with minister Dilou, they are going in the direction of eroding even more the little freedoms that had been achieved under previous regimes.