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

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.