'Marwan' sits behind bars. His crime? 'Confessing' he's gay
It's the start of term for students. I strongly dislike the start of term. After four relaxing and worry-free months off, I'm faced with the prospect of writing my 10,000 word dissertation. Ergh. Just ergh. Conversations with my lecturers thus far: 'Any idea what you're going to write about?' I've got a vague idea. 'How many books do you think you'll have to get through?' Lots. 'You do realise you should have started by now?' Wow, what a lovely office you have.
I guess I should try and be more optimistic. Student life is pretty good. Cheap beers in the union, you get to be your own boss, getting up at 1 in the afternoon becomes routine. More importantly though, being a student provides you with a chance to realise and achieve your dreams, hopes and ambitions, whatever they may be. We all should have the opportunity to shape our own future. ‘Marwan’ (a pseudonym to protect his identity), a 22-year-old student from Tunisia, has been robbed of that opportunity. He sits behind bars. Why? ‘Confessing’ he’s gay.
Marwan’s story is horrific. He was taken in for questioning by the Tunisian authorities on 6th September, after police found his number on the phone of a man who had been murdered. He was not suspected of committing the murder but under questioning, was forced to confess to having a relationship with the murdered man. The police officers beat him, threatened to rape him and charge him with murder. A few days after, he was subjected to an examination to establish ‘proof’ of anal sex. He was then sentenced to a year in prison.
Tragically, it’s still illegal to be gay in Tunisia, with Article 230 of the Penal Code criminalising homosexuality. Unsurprisingly, this leads to widespread violence and discrimination towards the Tunisian LGBTI community. But, things are changing. Already, many people in Tunisia have been outraged by Marwan’s case. On 28th September, Tunisia’s Minister for Justice acknowledged that Article 230 violates rights. Things are changing, but we have to keep up this pressure.
Does Marwan have dreams, hopes and ambitions? Like most students, I would say that he does. What are they? I have no idea. But I do know that they won’t be realised while he’s in jail. For Marwan, unlike with my dissertation, I remain optimistic.
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