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Oct 27 2011

It could turn out like Iran

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
rights.

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
anything.”

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
about her.”

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…”

Not good.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    julian

    “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 about her.”

    It always starts small, doesn’t it?

  2. 2
    The Ys

    It always starts small, doesn’t it?

    Yes, it does…and that’s why every small step backwards needs to be fought against, no matter what country it happens in.

  3. 3
    mirax

    Well 60% of Tunisians did not vote for An-Nahda but that is small comfort right now.

    I noticed that among news agencies, only the AFP leaves out the word moderate when describing the Tunisian islamist party or puts it in quotes and always mentions critics’ reservations about the party’s doubletalk and dubious intentions. Good for them in a world gone mad (looking at the Al-Guardian which thinks that theocracy is good enough for the brown people).

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Really. This idiotic idea that there’s such a thing as “moderate” Islamism – what a delusion.

  5. 5
    mirax

    Just keep a look out for AFP reports and compare against the BBC or Reuters. I started noticing this a couple of years ago. It is quite interesting.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah, I will. I’ve always like AFP pieces but I don’t think I’d noticed that – but maybe I did, subconsciously.

  7. 7
    Greg Tingey

    Ophelia @ 4
    Spot on.
    Not, of course that the christians, especially the RC are any better.

    Which reminds me, have you seen this prize piece of religiostic idiocy from Baroness Warsi?

  1. 8
    Is the Arab Spring Hurting Arab Women?

    [...] it as a “moderate” Islamic party, but the accuracy of that adjective is debatable. As Ophelia Benson points out, there are some ominous signs of what this may portend for Tunisian women, like reports [...]

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