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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid