Tunisia, Tunis. 01 December, 2016. A posed portrait of 36 year old, gay man Badr (+216 58111790, baaboubadr@yahoo.com). Badr is the Executive Director of DAMJ, a human rights organization. He has worked as an LGBTQI+ activist for many years. This work has also made him the target of violence. For his safety, he moves house every four to five months. ÒThe worst moment of my life was in December 2012, the first president of the association received death threats and I was hiding him in my home to protect him. So I became the target of a group of homophobic gangsters who infiltrated into my home in the medina of Tunis, they took my archives and many documents of the NGO after having violently brutalized meÓ. Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Badr/


“The worst moment of my life was in December 2012, the first president of the association received death threats and I was hiding him in my home to protect him. So I became the target of a group of homophobic gangsters.”

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Ash/


“I spent nights crying tears on cheeks tears on my pillow I couldn’t cry out loud because if someone hear me they would think I am a monster and pervert I felt so weak and alone I hated myself and I tried to change but one day I stood up and said to myself what if this would be ur last day in life would care about what others say would u care about all the people who are trying to put u down ?”

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Tunisia, Bizerte. 28 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 18 year old, gay man Chehinez (not his real name) (+216 55532321). ChehinezÕs effeminate self expression did not sit well with his  conservative family. So much so that his father would beat him when he acted or expressed ideas outside the social norms of Tunisian society. ÒMy childhood was awful and I suffered a lot. I made my coming out at the age of 16, and I think now that it was the biggest mistake of my life. This period I tried to commit suicide because of judgments.Ó Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Chehinez/


“My childhood was awful and i suffered a lot. I made my coming out at the age of 16, and i think now that it was the biggest mistake of my life. This period I tried to commit suicide because of judgments.”

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Tunisia, Tunis. 04 December, 2016. A posed portrait of lesbian couple A (25 years old) & A (25 years old) (+216 25863907, bmbarek.abir@gmail.com, +216 22142156, hammouda.amaf@gmail.com). A & A have been a couple for four years, but have hidden their sexuality from all except to a few close friends. Like many in the LGBTQI+ community in Tunisia, they express their frustration over a society that does not acknowledge their existence: ÒIt was last valentines when we decided to go have a romantic dinner at this nice restaurant where everything was decorated in red with heart shaped lights. The moment we got in, we set our eyes on this nice table for two with lovely candles on top of it, but the waiter directed us to a regular table for four because the other tables were for couples and we werenÕt a couple. How can we be when she is a she and I am a she. It wasnÕt just a ValentineÕs Day incident, it was our everyday life outside our safe bubble. That is why those four years of love were also four years of hiding. And we still hide and we still love.Ó Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

A&A/


“It was last valentines when we decided to go have a romantic dinner at this nice restaurant where everything was decorated in red with heart shaped lights. The moment we got in, we set our eyes on this nice table for two with lovely candles on top of it, but the waiter directed us to a regular table for four because the other tables were for couples and we weren’t a couple. How can we be when she is a she and I am a she.”

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Tunisia, Tunis. 27 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 24 year old, lesbian woman Soly (+216 50268183, salwa-mjn@live.fr, FB: Soly Minerva). Soly is an activist with Tunisian non-governmental womenÕs rights and LGBTQI+ organization Mawjoudui - We Exist. Like many LGBTQI+ people in Tunisia, coming out is a scary process where reactions are unpredictable. Soly thought, of anyone, her closest friend would offer support. She was wrong. Her friend rejected her and ended their friendship with an SMS: ÒShe is not honored to have a friend like me,Ó Soly recalled. She was distraught: ÒOne night, my over thinking went too much, and I just decided to end it. I took lots of pills, hoping whatever this was, will end. I didnÕt want to be rejected again, or judged one more time. But I didnÕt die, I didnÕt take enough pills, and IÕm thankful for that.Ó Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Soly/


“One night, my over thinking went too much, and I just decided to end it. I took lots of pills, hoping whatever this was, will end. I didn’t want to be rejected again, or judged one more time. But I didn’t die, I didn’t take enough pills, and I’m thankful for that. After a few years of being unable to trust people again or to talk about who I am. The universe threw some people who did accept me, they didn’t even care if I liked girls they cared about me. And better yet, I met people who are just like me, who suffered who tried to end it, who survived.”

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Tunisia, Bizerte. 28 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 17 year old, gay man Mariah (+216 99755846, lgbt.veaffness@gmail.com, IG: beyonce.k.n). Mariah is a high school student and already an activist for LGBTQI+ rights. In school he has been bullied. In July of 2016 it became too much for him, he tried to kill himself: ÒIÕm still young and IÕve seen a lot through my high school years. I came out when I was a freshman. And I got a lot of discriminations. ItÕs true that life has been tough for me, but I got thick skin now, I learned that people will always talk, more importantly they will always be afraid of difference.Ó Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Mariah/


“I’m still young and I’ve seen a lot through my highschool years. I came out when I was a freshman. And I got a lot of discriminations. It’s true that life has been tough for me, but I got thick skin now, I learned that people will always talk, more importantly they will always be afraid of difference.”

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Tunisia, Tunis. 29 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 18 year old, gay man Maximus Bloo (not his real name) (+216 50300640, wael198w@gmail.com, FB: maximusbloo). Maximus was ÒoutedÓ after meeting an older man using the gay dating app, Grindr. The man blackmailed Maximus, forcing him to have sex with him. After two times, Maximus refused. The man then outed him to his family. Commenting on that period of his life, Maximus says: ÒYoung kids who found out theyÕre gay and still discovering their life. They often get blackmailed by people such as him and pushed to be turned to a material and a tool for old people and other people to have fun with.Ó Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Maximus Bloo/


“It didn’t cause me any issues until I turned 13, my friends started talking about girls and how they want to ‘enjoy’ or ‘have fun’ with them. Everyone gets a … everytime they bring that subject up, and I didn’t, I wasn’t even paying attention to it, it made me feel like an outsider, I felt something was off and my thoughts were confirmed when I met Adam, we instantly clicked and we used to always hang out and play, and one night we got intimate and he kissed me, it was beautiful and scary at the same time. My thoughts were true, I AM DIFFERENT.”

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Tunisia, Tunis. 26 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 21 year old, gender queer person Rzouga (+216 24739501, rzougaselmi@gmail.com, IG: rzouga.selmi). Rzouga is an LGBTQI+ activist but is not publicly ÔoutÕ: ÒAs a non binary gender queer person IÕve never been able to express myself the way I want to because I may be called ÒfaggotÒ ÒsissyÒ ÒpervertÒ etcÉÓ He has come out to his family though. His mother, when he told her, asked him to go to a psychologist. He agreed. In his first consultation, he would not say he identifies as LGBTQI+ fearing the psychologistÕs reaction. The second time though, when he entered he said Ògood morning, IÕm a homosexual person. I was not raped, I was not forced to be. I was born and I choose to stay as a homosexual person. I am not having a problem with myself as a gay person.Ó To his surprise, his psychologist was supportive in particular in dealing with his mother. Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Rzouga/


“As a human being I’ve always failed in finding the ‘one person’ that I can call soul mates because of the cultural restriction and the backwards traditions that doesn’t tolerate love in a different way but it’s ok I feel the love among family friends and country love, but as a non binary gender queer person I’ve never been able to express my gender identity the way I want because I may be called ‘faggot’ ‘sissy’ ‘pervert’ and a lot of other terms.”

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Tunisia, Tunis. 25 November, 2016. A posed portrait of 22 year old, gay man Amine (+216 24323670). Amine is a survivor of regular homophobic violence at the hands of his own family. The impact was not only physical. The rejection from those closest to him drove him to attempt suicide several times. His desire to be with the man he loved saw him leave his home in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, to join him in Libya. But the persecution did not end. While walking with his boyfriend on a beach they were stopped by the police. ÒI was caught by the Libyan police,Ó he says, Òthey wanted to kill me. They beat me and detained me for seven days. I had to move back to Tunis, and stay away from my loveÉa piece of me.Ó His boyfriend stayed behind in Libya and married a woman to conceal his sexuality. He occasionally sends Amine money. Photo Robin Hammond /NOOR for Witness Change.  The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia, and led to the ousting of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Tunisian LGBTQI+ community hoped that the revolution would usher in a more open society, and an end to homophobia and transphobia. This has not come to pass. The laws that target LGBTQI+ people remain, most notably article 230 which makes same-sex acts illegal, punishable by up the 3 years in prison. Transgender people are targeted under public decency laws. The general public is no more accepting of LGBTQI+ people than they were before the revolution. Despite the legal and societal discrimination, LGBTQI+ activists are dedicated to campaigning more openly.

Amine/


“My family beat me, so I tried to commit suicide several times. One day I fell in love with a boy who lived in Libya, so I joined him there.
I was caught by the libyen police, they wanted to kill me. They beat me and detained me for 7 days.
I had to move back to Tunis and stay away from my love…a piece of me.
He got married, even though he is gay, and it depressed me…”

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Amina/


“Growing up in Tunisia is not as bad as it is, but it’s tiring. We’re not like other Arabic countries, but we are also not like Europeans, so we grow up having an identity disorder. I discovered I was bi at the age of 15.”

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Salah/


“16 was the year of my coming out. I came out to my mother and my older brother. Poor him… he suffered from the pressure of the people of the neighborhood… My mother only worried about not having the cops home. Then, I understood that I will carry this responsibility throughout my entire life. Being responsible for being gay and different at 16 is worse than doing your military service.”

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