Middle-class women in Tunisia are not thrilled about the win of the “moderate” Islamist party.
In Sunday’s election Tunisia, birthplace of the “Arab Spring” uprisings,
handed the biggest share of the vote to Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party that was banned under decades of autocratic, secularist rule.
“We’re afraid that they’ll limit our freedoms,” said Rym, a 25-year-old
medical intern sitting in “Gringo’s”, a fast-food outlet in Ennasr.
“They say they won’t but after a while they could introduce changes step by
step. Polygamy could come back … They say they want to be like Turkey but it
could turn out like Iran. Don’t forget, that was a very open society too.”
Not to mention the fact that Turkey is getting more Islamist, not less so. These “moderate” Islamists are only as “moderate” as they’re forced to be. As soon as they can, they go stricter.
Many of them do not trust assurances from Rachid Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s
leader. He says he will model his approach on Turkey’s moderate ruling AK Party, will not impose Islamic values on anyone and will respect women’s
Nadia Khemiri, a 39-year-old former public relations executive who is now a
housewife, says it is not Ghannouchi that worries her, but the message his win
will send to the streets.
A few days before the election, Khemiri was handing out leaflets in support
of a rival party with other women activists.
“There were some men who looked at us and said: ‘You keep doing what you’re
doing. But it’s not going to last long. Soon you’ll be staying at home’,”
Khemiri recalled in an interview on Tuesday.
“We have seen incidents that justified our fears of excesses from certain
people, who are now going to feel stronger, and that they can get away with
Just so. As soon as they can, they will.
Ennahda’s victory means Tunisia will finally have a leadership who share the
values and Muslim identity of the majority of the population.
“It’s men not looking you in the eye; talking to your husband, not you,” said
another woman, who did not want to be named. “I have a daughter and I worry
Khemiri said she was shocked to see separate queues for men and women at
polling stations in areas where Ennahda is strong.
“In some working-class districts, when you go to pay the gas or electricity
bill, there are men who come with their wives and try to enforce separate queues…”