While some Tunisians believe Femen activist Amina Sboui is being harshly treated for her anti-Islamist protest,there is little public sympathy for three European women who bared their breasts in support of her.
The three women,two French and one German,face jail terms of up to a year when they go on trial in Tunis tomorrow,although their lawyer is confident of a lighter sentence.
They are charged with public indecency after staging a topless protest last week outside the main courthouse in Tunis in support of Sboui,who was arrested after painting the word “Femen” on a wall near a cemetery in an act of protest against hardline Islamists.
Also tomorrow,Sboui,a young Tunisian with the same “sextremist” Femen movement as the Europeans,is to appear in a separate court on charges of indecency and desecrating a cemetery.
Sboui,who has been held in detention since May 19,faces between six months and two years in jail,although the judge has indicated that she could be accused of acting as part of an organised gang and therefore attract a heavier sentence.
But while the ruling Islamist party Ennahda is often accused by its secular opponents of seeking to Islamise society,the May 29 topless protest — the first in the Arab world — did nothing to win the opposition’s support in socially conservative Tunisia,or renew the debate about women’s rights.
Even if Tunisia’s secular and feminist groups sympathise with the young Tunisian’s plight,few of them are rushing to support her European comrades.
“What has happened to Amina,this ruthlessness,is not justified. She does not in any way represent a threat to national security,” said Nadia Chaabane,MP for the secular centre-left party Al-Massar.
“But I don’t understand the Femen reaction,which has aggravated her situation,” she added.
“It is a sterile and pointless provocation. This incident distracts us from the most serious problems we face today,the socio-economic problems,the drafting of the constitution,the violence,etc. Frankly,the Femen (demands) are the last thing I’m worried about.”