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First Arab LGBTQ Organization Wins Legal Recognition in Tunisia

posted on: Mar 24, 2020

First Arab LGBTQ Organization Wins Legal Recognition in Tunisia



BERLIN – The Tunisian LGBTQ organization SHAMS announced on March 11 that a court recognized its legal status in response to efforts by the Muslim-majority state to close the group.

Mounir Baatour, who is president of SHAMS and favors diplomatic relations with Israel, termed the victory a “success of which I am very proud. SHAMS… became legal after years of legal battle. We won… against the many post-revolutionary political-judicial regimes! This is not the least of my satisfactions. To my knowledge, SHAMS is now the only legal association in the Arab-Muslim world. This is not nothing and offers us hardly believable opportunities, sometimes beyond our borders.”

Since the founding of Shams in 2015, Tunisian authorities sought to use Islamic Sharia law to shut down LGBTQ rights and LGBTQ groups in the country.

The legal dispute over recognition of SHAMS meandered its way through Tunisia’s legal system over the years.

Last month, Tunisia’s Court of Cassation – the final legal venue for appeals in the North African country – issued its ruling declaring SHAMS a legal organization, rejecting the state’s attempts to close it down. SHAMS’ name originates with the Sufi mystic Shams Tabrizi. Its logo consists of two whirling dervishes.

Shams seeks to decriminalize homosexuality and advance the rights of sexual minority groups.