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Trans man beaten by police and onlookers then refused medical treatment because of his gender: ‘Kill them, they are sodomites’

Matilda Davies December 11, 2020
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Protesters holding a giant Pride banner

Trans rights are under threat in Tunisia. (YouTube/Wada7 France)

A Tunisian trans man was physically and verbally assaulted when police officers discovered the gender marker on his ID didn’t match his true identity.

Ahmed El-Tounsi was with a group of fellow trans activists in Tunis, near the French embassy, when police approached and asked them for ID.

A verbal altercation ensued, becoming physical when police began assaulting them, Human Rights Watch reported.

Though the group tried to run, El-Tounsi said, police officers chased them and encouraged bystanders to join in, shouting: “Kill them, they are sodomites.”

People followed El-Tounsi and his friends into alleyways and “beat [them] unconscious”.

“They snatched our phones to delete evidence of the assault and said: ‘We will slaughter you,'” he added.

“It felt like our entire country beat us that day.”

Trans man beaten by police rejected by transphobic doctors.

El-Tounsi says he was later denied medical attention because of his gender. He remembers the doctor saying: “You’re a special case, I can’t treat you here. Go somewhere else.”

At another hospital, which focuses on women’s health, El-Tounsi begged doctors to treat him, saying: “I’m bleeding, I’m going to die, please treat me.”

He says the doctor told him: “You look like a man, this is a women’s hospital.”

During his multiple attempts to get medical attention, El-Tounsi says he was consistently deadnamed, mocked, interrogated about his identity and addressed with the wrong pronouns.

El-Tounsi and other trans activists tried to file a complaint to hold the police officers involved accountable. However, the courts refused their request to review nearby camera footage.

His lawyers submitted an appeal in October and are awaiting a final decision.

Trans activists have reported police brutality in Tunisia for years.

El-Tounsi founded an organisation in 2018 called OutCasts, which aims to help trans communities in Tunisia who are being denied their basic rights.

There is currently no legal recognition for transgender people in Tunisia. Trans people are often arbitrarily arrested or undergo abusive police controls leading to prosecution.

Between March and September this year, there have been 12 prison sentences against trans people and gay men under laws criminalising sodomy, indecent behaviour in public and insulting a police officer.

Said Ayadi, a social worker at Tunis-based LGBT+ rights group Damj, said that the attack on El-Tounsi in August is part of a growing trend in 2020.

Between March and September, Damj recorded 21 cases of public violence against trans people, 10 torture cases and 2 cases of security officers bullying trans people in detention facilities.

This year, Damj have provided legal assistance to LGBT+ people in 75 cases and responded to 98 requests for legal consultation.

Ayadi said: “These figures are five times higher than those we recorded in 2019, indicating an alarming increase int he persecutions of LGBT people during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Earlier this year, an LGBT+ group in Tunisia, Mawjoudin, reported a spike in calls to its counselling hotline.

Related topics: Hate crime, police brutality, trans activist, trans man, Tunisia

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