Tag Archives: Tunisia

News of the release of the three European Femen in Tunisia came up in my reader via the blog of Caroline Fourest. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere in English (maybe I just missed it) so I thought I’d throw up a quick post since Google searches for Femen and Amina Tyler seem to bring people here on occasion.

The three members of the activist feminist group, Femen, who were being detained in Tunisia, arrived in Paris on Thursday, June 27. Two of the women, Pauline Hillier and Marguerite Stern are French nationals. The third, Josephine Markmann is from Germany.

Earlier, on Wednesday, the three women had been sentenced to a penalty of four months and one day under the First Offenders Act (avec sursis). They had been arrested for a topless demonstration in support of Amina Sbouï, also known as Amina Tyler, which occurred on Wednesday, May 29. At their sentencing, they expressed regret. Upon their return to France, they retracted the apology.

Previously, they had been sentence to four months and one day in prison ferme. This was reduced after an appeal. I have to appologize to my visitors for being unable to give a good definition of en prison ferme and avec sursis. The best I can make out is that is that the first simply means “in prison” while the second is either a deferred sentence or a form of parole. If anyone has a clearer explanation, please let me know.

According to TF1 news, Pauline Hillier said, “The conditions of detention were terrible.” “I can assure you that we’ve come back from hell.” She said that  there were “daily humiliations, hazing and deplorable hygienic conditions.”

Amina, herself a Tunisian national, remains in prison.

[Edit] There is some information in English on Taslima Nasreen’s blog.

A squirrel checking me out.Last night, I did a bit of searching around the internet to see if I could find any concrete information on what, if anything, has happened to the young woman. I originally became aware of Amina’s situation due to a post by Maryam Namzie, an Iranian born feminist and human rights activist, who is also a former Muslim. Pretty simply, I went to Google and typed in Amina Tyler under their new search. What I didn’t find was as interesting as what I did find. Not seeing, the New York Times on the list of articles, I went directly to that site and typed in “Amina Tyler” and came up with nothing. Apparently, the The New York Times did not see this as a subject deserving coverage of any sort. I went back to the Google search results and followed the link to an article on Aljazeera, which I usually find to be a high quality source of information, especially on international issues. However, the only article they had was entitled “Muslim women decry topless gender protests.” I typed “Amina Tyler” into their search box and came up with nothing else.

The most complete articles in English have been in the UK version of the Huffington Post. I consider the Huffington Post to be too sensationalistic to be reliable.

Aljazeera has a page devoted to Human Rights, but no story about Amina appeared there. This left me wondering whether or not women’s rights have the same standing as other human rights. Amina’s photos were clearly intended as political speech, not pornography. To charge her with any criminal charges would definitely put it in the realm of persecution for political activism. Will mainstream human rights groups take up her case?

In the meantime, over at Jezebel, in some sort of “more pc than thou” fit, Callie Beusman wrote the shockingly stupid “Muslim Women Shockingly Not Grateful for Topless European Ladies Trying To ‘Save’ Them.” Well, two can play that game. Callie Beusman, are you so prejudiced against women who are not of European descent that when you see women speaking up for themselves you assume they must be European? Because in this video posted on the Femen site, one of the demonstrators appears to identify herself as an Arab woman. It should be noted that most of the protesters were protesting against Salafism or Islamism, the radical, highly politicized form of Islam, not necessarily Islam in general. The counter protest isn’t just Muslim women protesting against Femen, it’s Muslim women protesting against a Muslim woman who won’t conform. We had anti-feminist women, like Anita Bryant, here in the U.S. In fact, it’s very important for Western feminists to lend their support to women like Amina because we can’t lead the struggle there.

It should be fairly obvious that Amina would not be in her current problematic circumstances if she were not living in a country with a population that is mostly Muslim. She is not an isolated case. There are Egyptians who have participated in Femen protests. Maryam Nazmazie has recently put a post about a feminist Egyption political cartoonist. (Unfortunately the FTB site is not working – as usual – so I can’t give you a link. fixed!) It would be naive to think that all feminist activity in Islamic countries is the result of imperialistic Europeans.

I hope the left doesn’t fall into the trap of making this about racism, islamophobia and imperialism, rather than about free speech, the right to political expression and right of women to control their own bodies. Let’s make sure the focus remains on Amina and other women like her.

Which leads me to some thoughts about her. We should keep in mind what we are supporting when we say “We support Amina.” There is relatively little information on her. She has become best known for having disappeared from the public view. All I have seen are a handful of photos and one video in Arabic that I couldn’t understand. Right now, she is a blank screen onto which we can project almost anything. We should be prepared that when she surfaces, she may or may not live up to our expectations of her. What we need to remember is that we are supporting the principle of freedom of speech and the right of women to have control over their own bodies.

As it happens, I don’t belong to Femen and I don’t agree with many of their stances, especially as regards pornography.

In case anyone wants to do something other than take their shirt off, here’s a petition.

Well, this has gotten a bit longer than I expected, so I’ll just give you this link to an article about how atheists lack imagination and let you… well… imagine what I must think of it.