Tunisia's LGBT Radio Station Refuses to Stop Promoting Tolerance in Face of Death Threats

The radio station, called 'the first LGBT radio station in the Arab world' by its director, was founded two weeks ago with support from the Dutch embassy

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
People walk past a clothes shop in Tunis, Tunisia, September 21, 2017
People walk past a clothes shop in Tunis, Tunisia, September 21, 2017 Credit: ZOUBEIR SOUISSI/REUTERS

Bombarded with death threats, the head of Tunisia’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) online radio station on Wednesday refused to stop his efforts to promote “tolerance” in a country where homosexuality is illegal.

Bouhdid Belhedi, the executive director of Shams, a local LGBT rights group, started up Shams Rad radio two weeks ago with support from the Dutch embassy in Tunis to build a community to discuss human rights, equality and justice.

He described it as the first LGBT radio station in the Arab world and said it runs daily from breakfast time to midnight online.

The 25-year-old said he wants to counter the negative media coverage of LGBT issues in the North African state where same-sex relationships are illegal and punishable by three years imprisonment.

“There is nothing out there that talks about the LGBTQ community honestly. This gives people a way to defend our community and we need this for Tunisia and the Middle East,” said Belhedi.

Same-sex relations remain illegal in 72 countries worldwide including in a majority of countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Since launching the station, Belhedi said he has received more than 4,000 hate messages and threats on social media.

“I have the power and the ability to continue to work. What motivates me are the issues of the community - there is a need for this in Tunisia and the region,” Belhedi said.

In September rights groups welcomed Tunisia’s pledge to end forced anal examinations to determine men’s sexual orientation, but Belhedi said the country’s traditional, societal views are at the root of the ongoing problem.

“We have to change the mentality of Tunisian society - they refuse (anyone) who is different from the (rest of) society,” Belhedi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Tunis.

“I hope this will make a difference and create more tolerance. That is why we are here.”

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott