A 19-year-old Tunisian woman who calls herself Amina Tyler shocked the country in March when she posted topless photos of herself online with the words, "My body is my own and not your honor," written on her skin. She received death threats and went into hiding after the FEMEN-inspired protest.
Then, last month she said she wanted to do a final topless protest before leaving the country for her studies. She was arrested on May 19 in the religious center of Kairouan where an ultraconservative Muslim group had intended to hold a conference before it was banned by police.
According to AFP, Tyler painted the word "FEMEN" on a wall near a cemetery shortly before being apprehended. She was charged with carrying a dangerous object, allegedly pepper spray, and will go before a judge on Thursday. She faces two years in prison.
The protest of Tyler's arrest was quickly brought to an end when police took the three women -- two French and one German -- into a nearby building. It is the first protest of its kind to take place in the Arab world, said FEMEN founder Inna Shevchenko in Paris. Even so, the activists knew they were taking a risk. Immoral behavior is punished with up to six months in prison in the North African country.
FEMEN was founded in Ukraine as a protest movement against the oppression of women. The organization recently caused a stir by holding topless demonstrations in front of mosques and Tunisian embassies in several European cities. With their so-called "topless jihad," they called for the self-determination over their bodies that they say is threatened by Islamism.
The group is seen more positively abroad. Western countries are more accustomed than those in the Eastern Hemisphere to seeing naked or semi-naked bodies in the media and on the streets. But in countries where nudity is taboo, the protests have more profound impact.
The group, born of young women who grew up without exposure to the West's culture of political correctness and who have scant respect for it; from their country's Soviet past, they know how deleterious the stifling of free speech can be. Now that they have moved to the West, FEMEN has courageously broken rules and enlivened the debate over religion's role in our world. FEMEN received a positive reception after opening their location in Paris on 18 September 2012 and another FEMEN branch in Germany on 23 January 2012.
Critics have stated FEMEN members are more interested in self-promotion than real reform, and that their antics are often tacky and undermine the cause of their protests. In Arab world, their antics are considered an insult to Islam and a crime.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
World Affairs Analyst
Photo Credit AFP