Three European women’s rights activists arrested in Tunisia about a month ago for staging topless rallies have been freed, while a Tunisian member of their group awaits trial on July 4.
“They are in the airport and on their way home,” Souhaib Bahri, one of their lawyers, said by phone today. An appeal court yesterday evening suspended the initial verdict of four months and one day in jail, Bahri said.
The activists, two French nationals and a German, were detained in late May and sentenced this month on charges of public indecency, an assault on morality and causing disturbance in public after staging a topless protest in front of a court in Tunis.
The Europeans, members of the Femen group, had traveled to the North African country to demand the release of Amina Seboui, also known as Amina Tyler, the 19-year-old founder of Femen Tunisia. Tyler was arrested in Kairouan after trying to bare her breasts in a protest on May 19, the same day that the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group staged a demonstration in the city, which authorities tried to ban.
Women rallied alongside men to bring down autocratic rulers in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt two years ago. Many now say their rights are under threat from Islamist movements, the main political beneficiaries of the change.
Seboui became the first Tunisian activist to post a topless photo of herself on Facebook. She told Tunisian online newspaper Jadal her goal was to “make the voice of Tunisian women heard and protect them from oppression.”
Her action encouraged other Tunisian women to post naked photos of their torso on Facebook with the inscription “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor.’
To contact the reporters on this story: Jihen Laghmari in Tunisia at email@example.com; Nadine Marroushi in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org
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