afrol News, 13 October - The gay and lesbian movement in Algeria is slowly daring to become more visible. This week, they lit thousands of candles in public to mark their fight for decriminalisation and respect.
The Union des Gays et Lesbiennes en Algérie (UGLA) is determined to seeks its own way towards liberation, well within the Muslim culture and tradition of the North African country. Copying Western models just would not work in Algeria.
Therefore, the UGLA activists chose the birthday of one of Algeria's main national heroes, Selim the Courageous, born on 10 October 1470, as the "national day for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people in Algeria." Selim conquered his Algerian Caliph title in 1512, holding it until his death 1520.
The strange choice of a patron is maybe best explained by Selim's double nature of a furious warrior and his romantic relations with boys. The Sultan is famous for the poetic phrase "I, who shake under my feet the lions of Europe, become a lamb a depositary near the beardless youth with the onyx eyes."
Since 2005, Algerian gays and lesbians have marked 10 October as their day of protest against articles 333 and 338 of the Algerian penal code, criminalising same-sex relations. And each year, the event becomes larger and more visible.
At 20:00 hours, activists and sympathisers all over Algeria lit candles in public or at home to "give themselves a glimpse of hope for their community." Publicly marching in the streets of Alger still is out of question for the homosexual minority, but candle lighting is seen as a first step of breaking "their sense of isolation."
This year, the event was bigger than ever, and especially the preparative stage drew the minority together. Internet forums and social networking was used to design banners and slogans and to make new contacts among Algerians mostly living in silence and isolation.
"We chose 10 October for its historical and religious symbolism, to maintain our Arab Muslim identity. We do not follow a particular wave, not a Western model. We do not believe in the logic of mimicry and dependency, in which our opponents accuse us of in many cases," UGLA explains its strategy.
"We are determined to fight for our rights to repeal laws that criminalise homosexuality, and not to be stigmatized," the group states. Its main fight is "to be able to complain when we are exposed to violence without fear of being criminalised," and "not to be justified for the police to harass us in the street for no lawful reason but only for being who we are."
The marking of 10 October went peacefully. The Algerian press completely ignored the event.
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