Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Nation Jails Outspoken Femen Activist

Photo: FEMEN/Facebook
European FEMEN activists in support of Amina Tyler (file photo).

Najjar in Tunis — Nineteen-year-old Tunisian feminist "Amina" was arrested in Kairouan on Sunday (May 19th).

Tunisia's prosecutor ordered the arrest of the Femen activist after she tried to take off her clothes opposite Uqba Ibn Nafi Mosque. She was also reportedly seen painting the word "Femen" on a wall near the mosque.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Ali Aroui said in a press conference Monday that Amina was brought to court, adding that "Tunisian society is a Muslim society and doesn't accept such eccentric acts."

"Amina's eccentric acts that are foreign to the Tunisian society have provoked the people of Kairouan, who expressed their rejection of these acts," Aroui added. "Amina was arrested as soon as she was recognised, especially as she was wearing a veil to disguise herself."

Meanwhile, the Co-ordinating Committee of Civil Associations in Kairouan expressed its "categorical rejection" of what they considered to be "attempts to drag the city to real strife".

The committee stressed "the need to bring this girl to trial for her attempt to morally assault our sanctities".

Amina was in Kairouan to protest the planned gathering of salafists from Ansar al-Sharia.

The activist first stirred controversy back in March when she posted topless pictures of herself online with the words "I own my body, it is not the source of anyone's honour" written on her bare chest. The act was part of an internet protest against the suppression of women's rights.

For her part, Ahlem Belhaj, president of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD), said that her group would support Amina "if it was proven that she was arrested in a pre-emptive step, especially as she is an unarmed person who poses no danger".

"We're not against the law, but we respect individuals' personal rights," she added. "If there has been any attack on her personal freedoms or violence targeting her, we'll intervene as soon as possible to defend her."

"What she has done involves no assault on sanctities," she noted. "People must be held to account for what they do, not for what they say."

Tunisians were divided over Amina's action.

"What Amina did was a provocation at a critical time that requires us to show much wisdom and sanity," Mounira Essid told Magharebia. "Exactly as the radical salafists don't represent me, Amina and her organisation don't represent the conservative Tunisian society."

Mouedh Bettayeb said, "It's clear that there are some people behind Amina to incite violence by provoking others' feelings. This is against the law and morals."

"The decision to arrest her was the right decision, and is a lesson for anyone who thinks about playing with the security of this country and its people," Bettayeb added.

Yasmine Allouch said, "Amina didn't assault any sanctities; she only wrote 'FEMEN' on Uqba Ibn Nafi Mosque wall. She didn't take off her clothes either."

"What she did was only to remind the radical salafists that Tunisia is the country of personal freedoms, not of religious extremism, and she has the right to do that," she said.

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