Trabelsi Zeineb is a bisexual atheist woman fleeing hostility and potential persecution from neighbours and family in Tunisia, seeking refuge in Germany.
Trabelsi Zeineb grew up in a highly religious family in the Tunis suburbs. Her father is a prominent member of the Party of El-Nahda. She spent her early life in this highly religious household. Religious enough that she felt the sting of restrictions and double standards against women. This was simply life in Tunisia for her.
Trabelsi was forced to wear the veil, forced to pray, forced to fast, and only allowed to leave the house to study, which was under the control of her brother or male guardian.
Zeineb lived without rights for a long time as girl, a woman, in a highly religious Islamic home. Then the revolution came, which gave her a chance to get away from her patriarchal household in suburbanite Tunis.
She began to fight for individual rights, for her rights as a non-believer and woman. It was a breath of freedom. She came out as a bisexual at this time as well. However, once her family found out about her bisexuality and atheism, they rejected her. She was threatened by family and neighbours.
In 2013, she got married. Her ex-husband, she reports, mistreated her. She described life with the ex-husband, the few months, as “hell.” After a few months, they got divorced.
She then began to formulate a plan to get out, get anywhere, for a new life: Europe was the obvious choice.
On the 1st of October, 2017, Zeineb got a tourist visa for 15 days to spend a week in Spain. From there, she went to Germany in order to apply for asylum. The German authorities rejected her.
I asked Trabelsi about the treatment of sexual minorities and atheists within Tunisia. She said, “The situation in Tunisia is unstable and we are being threatened because we are minorities.”
“We are threatened with death from the family and the community. And we do not find our right when we want to resort to the judiciary Germany may refuse asylum,” Zeineb explained, “because it considers Tunisia a state of rights and freedoms after the revolution. If they refuse asylum, they will return to Tunisia and face renewed death threats from my family.”
Zeineb is concerned about being potentially returned to Tunisia because, if she does then, she will potentially face penalties for being a bisexual and an atheist in a country with a culture against sexual minorities and unbelievers.
“Arabe Article 226 provides for imprisonment for any person who infringes on good morals and public morals. Article 230 of the Tunisian Penal Code provides for the perpetrator of homosexuality or manslaughter to be sentenced to three years’ imprisonment,” Zeineb said.
She noted that she risks even her family simply killing her. The future is unknown for her, as she is meeting with German authorities today, on April the 20th.