BEIRUT, Lebanon – 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.