News / Middle East

Feminist Activists On Trial in Tunisia

Police officers detain an activist from the women's rights group FEMEN during a protest against the arrest of their Tunisian member named Amina Sboui, in front of Tunisia's Ministry of Justice in Tunis, May 29, 2013.Police officers detain an activist from the women's rights group FEMEN during a protest against the arrest of their Tunisian member named Amina Sboui, in front of Tunisia's Ministry of Justice in Tunis, May 29, 2013.
x
Police officers detain an activist from the women's rights group FEMEN during a protest against the arrest of their Tunisian member named Amina Sboui, in front of Tunisia's Ministry of Justice in Tunis, May 29, 2013.
Police officers detain an activist from the women's rights group FEMEN during a protest against the arrest of their Tunisian member named Amina Sboui, in front of Tunisia's Ministry of Justice in Tunis, May 29, 2013.
Lisa Bryant
Members of the body-baring feminist group Femen are on trial in Tunisia for indecency and violating public morality in their bid to launch a "feminist spring" in Muslim countries. After the trial's opening session on Wednesday, the court adjourned proceedings until June 12. The group and its tactics have stirred controversy even among feminists.
 
The tactic was classic Femen: Three young woman painted with graffiti staged a topless protest before being hauled away by police. But their chosen location for baring their bodies last week - in front of the Tunis courthouse - marks a new step for the Ukrainian-born feminist movement.

It takes the battle for women's rights to the Muslim world.

On Wednesday, the three Femen activists - two French and one German - went on trial at the same Tunis courthouse for debauchery - a charge that carries up to six months in prison.

The three arrived in court clad in safaris, Tunisia's traditional, body-covering white veil.
 
Their protest last week was on behalf of a Tunisian counterpart, Amina Sboui, who faces separate charges in the religious city of Kairouan.

Meanwhile in Paris, Femen members staged a bare-breasted display of solidarity Wednesday, in front of the Tunisian embassy.

Inna Shevchenko, head of Femen's Paris branch, said Tunisia is only the start of a larger campaign for women's rights in the Muslim world. She calls it a new 'Arab spring' for women.

"Countries of [the] Arab Spring were a big disappointment for society, but also with the changing political situation - and Islamist parties which are leading governments, in Tunisia as well - they are trying to increase the levels of oppression. We staged our topless protests saying there will be a second revolution, there will be a women's spring, there will be a women's revolution," said Shevchenko.

Tunisia has long been considered a regional leader when it comes to women's rights. But today, many Tunisian women fear Islamists are rolling back their gains.

Prominent rights activist Khadija Cherif said the judiciary's reaction to the Femen activists is another worrying indication of a clampdown on free expression.

Increasingly, Cherif said, Tunisian women are being pressured to wear the veil. While she doesn't share Femen's tactics, she says she might have also been tempted to strip off her clothes in protest, had she been younger.
 
Femen has attracted some Muslim supporters and members, but it remains deeply controversial.

Tunisia's Deputy National Assembly speaker Mehrezia Labidi is perhaps the most senior female member of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party. She says she comes from a feminist background.

She does not believe Femen, however, is helping the cause of Tunisian women.

"I don't think such a provocative act as those done by Femen can advance in any way ideas about women's status or freedom," she said. "I'm afraid it can only provoke conflicts and clashes."

Labidi is not Femen's only female critic. A new Facebook group, "Muslim Women Against Femen," accuses Femen of Islamophobia. And while Tunisian member Sboui has earned a certain amount of public sympathy at home, there is less tolerance for Femen's European members.

"These girls who came from Europe to protest in Tunisia... I would like someone to tell them, kindly but firmly, that they have to respect the public ethics in this country and behave decently with people," said Labidi.

As for Sboui, Labidi suggested that she is psychologically ill and needs treatment.

Femen is no stranger to controversy. Paris branch leader Shevchenko fled her native Ukraine last year after hacking down a cross with a chainsaw. She says the group is planning new campaigns in Muslim countries - and she says criticism is just one more reason to do so.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ahmed from: Tunis
June 06, 2013 6:19 PM
It's not "safaris"
it's "Safsari"

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid