Last Monday, a 19 year old Tunisian woman named Amina posted on Facebook a photo of her naked upper body bearing the slogan “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of the honor of anyone.” She announced that she is representing the Femen movement in Tunisia.
Founded in 2008, Femen is a Ukrainian feminist group that organizes topless protests to advocate for women’s liberation. Its activities have spread to other countries, with branches of the organization active in locations such as France and Germany.
“We have members in Brazil, Germany, the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria, and Tunisia,” Inna Shevchenko, a leader of Femen, told The Atlantic in January 2013.
Earlier this month, Femen member Julia Javel announced on France24 that Femen will open a branch in Tunisia to protest the oppression of women.
Amina, the Tunisian woman who posed topless, told Ettounsiya TV: “In July, I saw the photos of Femen and I started reading about them. I liked that their message was radical. It was the first time I saw women who are not posing naked for the camera but are angrily protesting. I contacted them and Skyped several times.”
She added, “if I posted a picture of myself wearing a t-shirt with that slogan, it wouldn’t have any impact. I want the message to be read this way. (A woman’s) body is hers — not her father’s, her husband’s or her brother’s.”
Amina’s photos sparked controversy among Facebook users. Some applauded her for her bravery, while others believed that her actions were immature and would only endanger the struggle for women’s equality.
“I received death threats,” Amina said. “But I don’t think that what will happen to me can be worse than the situation of women. [...] When a woman takes off her shirt, that means she has reached the breaking point and can’t take it anymore.”
She added that Tunisian women must “wake up” and realize they are living under oppression.
A video of a woman identifying herself as Amina’s aunt and denouncing her niece’s actions was posted yesterday on YouTube.
“Amina does not exist anymore for me,” she said. “She is responsible for her acts, and we are devastated by what she did. Our family is educated and open-minded and we did everything we could for her. Her father has been crying and has been in a miserable state.”
She added: “I hope she pays for her actions. She does not represent her country or Tunisian women.”