Despite a civil partnership with a Frenchman, Tunisian Ashraf could face deportation from France after the country rejected a gay marriage bill in July. The 24-year-old Tunisian and his French partner Oliver have been in a civil partnership since last summer, but because Ashraf’s student visa expired he became undocumented and now appears to be a reason why his residency request has been denied.
If France had passed the marriage law and granted the gay community marriage rights, Ashraf would not be in danger of deportation, but civil partnerships do not have the benefit of allowing a foreign national to remain in the country.
“I wanted to escape Tunisia, land of my childhood,” said Ashraf, in comments published by Care2.com. “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 said, as seen on television and on the Internet: “I just came for a normal life in France …”
His lawyer has said publicly that his client has no automatic right to remain in the country and that if France were to send him back to Tunisia, he would face persecution and violence toward him due to his sexual orientation.
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, Tunisian 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.