On April 4th, members of feminist group FEMEN staged protests across Europe as they called for a “topless jihad.”
Warning: If you can’t handle non-sexualized images of women’s breasts, don’t look at the slideshow below.
The demonstrations were in support of a young Tunisian activist named Amina Tyler. Last month, Tyler, a college student posted topless images of herself online, with the words “I own my body; it’s not the source of anyone’s honor” and “fuck your morals” written on her bare chest. The photos caused a great deal of controversy, with Islamist hackers responding with an attack on FEMEN’s Tunisian Facebook Fan Page, replacing topless photos with quotes from the Qur’an. The head of Tunisia’s “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” stated that Tyler could be stoned to death for her act of defiance.
In support of Tyler’s plight, FEMEN labeled April 4 “International Topless Jihad Day” and organized protests across Europe.
“This day will mark the beginning of a new, genuine Arab Spring, after which true freedom, freedom without mullahs and caliphs, will come to Tunisia! Long live the topless jihad against infidels! Our tits are deadlier than your stones!” the group wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.
The protests were powerful. In Paris (home of FEMEN international headquarters) two dozen activists showed up and tried to reach the Tunisian embassy, but were deterred by police. In Brussels, five activists gathered near an Islamic cultural center. In Milan, Italian women protested outside the Tunisian consulate, carrying signs that read “Free Amina” and “Bare Breasts Against Islam.” In Kiev, the police detained activists for conducting a topless protest near the Kiev mosque. Activists and journalists have expressed concern about Tyler’s well-being in recent days. While her lawyer said the young woman was doing fine, several reports suggest Tyler is being held by her parents in seclusion.
A couple days after the protests, in her first interview since her disappearance, given with a male family member, Amina said that she was fine, and with her family, though she said she was scared for her life and that of her family. She said that she has been flooded with death threats. She says she will have to leave Tunisia. She also took issue with some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric used by FEMEN, and their burning of a Salafist flag, because she is afraid of the repercussions. She reaffirmed her support to the group and thanked them for their support. It is unclear whether she freely gave the interview.
We stand in solidarity with Amina, and our FEMEN sisters, and we are appalled at the police brutality depicted in the pictures. At the same time, we hope that this will encourage more dialogue and progress for women in the Muslim world, rather than create a negative backlash. Many religious Muslim women are women’s rights activists themselves, though they take a rather different, and one could argue, more culturally and religiously sensitive approach. The “Topless Jihad” has certainly has been effective in getting the world’s attention, and that in itself a huge accomplishment. Isn’t it incredible how powerful our female bodies can be? All hell breaks loose when our breasts are de-sexualized! But how can this awareness turn into constructive change, rather than into the old Northern vs Southern cultural imperialism debate?
What’s your take LivLunatics?