In a bid to show support for an 18-year-old woman jailed in Tunisia, three members of the European-based feminist-activist group FEMEN staged a dramatic topless protest outside the central courthouse in Tunis on Wednesday calling for the release of the activist known as Amina Tyler.
Holding signs that read "Free Amina" and "Fuck Your Morals," the women—two French activists and one from Germany—drew a large number of journalists snapping photos and video before they were taken into custody by police.
Tyler, a pseudonym, was arrested earlier this month after speaking out against the intolerance of Tunisia's hardline Salafist group Ansar al-Shariah. Currently held on charges of illegally possessing pepper spray—though reports indicated it was only "a pen-sized personal protection device that shot some kind of debilitating spray"—Amina was arrested after videos showing her scrawling the word 'FEMEN' on a city wall as she hoped to confront a religious conference of conservative politicians.
She faces up to six months in jail for the incident, but the FEMEN activists say she is being persecuted for her stance against the male dominated culture in Tunisia.
"It is the first action that we have taken in the Arab world... I prepared this international team in Paris and they were sent yesterday (Tuesday) to Tunis," Femen's leader in Paris, Inna Shevchenko, told AFP by phone.
Public indecency is punishable in Tunisia by six months or more in jail, but Shevchenko denied that Amina's graffiti was the true source of her incarceration.
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"We don't take any notice of this kind of thing. In these countries the law is applied as it suits (those in power). In Tunisia, we see that people run the risk of two years in prison just for simple graffiti," she added.
And Tunisia Live reported from the scene:
The three activists appeared in front of the Palace of Justice wearing blouses which they took off to show their bare chests, on which slogans were written such as “Breasts Feed Revolution” and “Femen Sexetremist” . They soon began shouting expressions such as “Free Amina” and “Women’s freedom is coming.” They were also holding banners on which was written “Free Amina Now” with the Femen symbol.
Tension escalated as the Femen protest was met with shouts of an angry crowd of lawyers, court staff and people who were passing by. Shortly after the Femen protestors were taken forcibly into the court, journalists were assaulted by police and bystanders. The crowd was upset with journalists’ photographing the event. Some accused them of being “Zionist” and of supporting Femen.
Journalists were forced by the police to stop photographing and some of them left the scene. Others were detained by the police to examine the footage of the protest.
And Twitter was monitoring events and reaction: