Why an International Day to Defend Amina?
When I heard that 19 year old Tunisian Amina had been threatened with death for posting a topless photo of herself bearing the slogan “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honour”, I knew we had to act.
Within 24 hours, a number of well known individuals and groups joined in a call to mark 4 April as an International Day to Defend Amina – both to unequivocally defend her and demand her safety and freedom whilst also demanding the prosecution of the Islamist who threatened her. Whilst Amina had done nothing wrong, the police aided her family in detaining her against her will and stopping all forms of communication with her friends and FEMEN rather than prosecuting those who detained and threatened her. She is still being held against her will and did not turn up at school this Monday as she was meant to. In a rare interview with a journalist, she said she was stressed but had no regrets.
In the last interview she gave before she was effectively kidnapped, she said women in Tunisia are ready for change:
“That women have reached the height of self-determination: we no longer obey any authority, neither family nor religious. We know what we want and we make our own decisions.”
This is the wonderful woman we stand up for and with on 4 April.
Signatories to the call include: Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Nude Photo Revolutionary; Caroline Fourest, Writer and Journalist; most recent film: “Our Breasts; Our Arms”; Darina Al-Joundi, Lebanese Actress and Author of “The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing”; Deeyah, Music Composer and Filmmaker; most recent film “Banaz: A Love Story” about an honour killing; Elia Tabesh, Iranian Women in Support of Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar; Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Spokesperson; Kareem Amer, Egyptian Blogger; Kian Azar, Communist Youth Organisation; Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue; Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of International Committee against Stoning and International Committee against Execution; Nadia El-Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker; most recent films “Neither Allah nor Master” and “Our Breasts; Our Arms”; Richard Dawkins, Scientist; Safia Lebdi, Co-founder of Neither Whores nor Submissives; and Taslima Nasrin, Bangladeshi Writer.
Are nudity and Islam completely incompatible? Do you see a time in which women in North Africa and the Middle East will be more free to show their bodies? How do you see what she did in a country like Tunisia?
All religions have a disturbing view of the female body. Islam is no different. The perfect woman under Islam is invisible. Islam is only worse in many ways because of its access to political power via the far-Right Islamic movement. Sharia law and Islamic states legislate and impose misogyny and perpetrate the debased view of women.
Women in North Africa and the Middle East will be freer the more Islam is relegated to a private affair and Islamism is pushed back from the public space. Actions like Amina’s help to challenge Islamism at its very core.
Islamism’s obsession with women’s bodies and its insistence that women be veiled, bound, and gagged means that nudity breaks taboos and is an important form of resistance.
Nudity is the antithesis of veiling. Of course it is not the only way to resist Islamism and the veil but it is a very modern way of doing so. Islamists want us covered up, hidden, and not seen and not heard; we refuse to comply.
But nudity is not just a protest against Islamism and religious misogyny. It is fundamentally a protest against discrimination, the commodification of women, and the religious and chauvinistic culture built upon it – which is why it is on the increase and has been a part of the women’s liberation movement for some time.
Commodification relies on an objectified image that is separate from the reality of women’s bodies, minds and lives. This image is used to regulate, control and suppress. And this is what religion and pornography share, albeit in different forms. The actuality and frankness of women’s bodies as a form of protest challenges and upsets both.
Nudity is deeply humanising and revolutionary because it challenges the religious/pornographic view of women’s bodies and reclaims a tool used for women’s suppression. Nudity outrages and offends because of this very challenge.
And it is taboo-breaking in the most progressive sense of the word since progress often comes as a result of offending deeply held and misogynist views and sensibilities. What makes nudity radical and progressive is also that it gives a practical response.
Whilst Islamists represent the voice of reaction and barbarity, Amina and those like her pose the greatest challenge and represent modernity, humanity and women’s equality. That is why in so many ways Amina has hit a nerve with so many people. She represents us all.
Femen supports Amina or Aliaa Elmahdy, but many people say the topless fight is a western idea for western ideal and it’s not relevant for the Muslim world. What do you think about it?
This reminds me of a slogan shouted by Iranian women protesting compulsory veiling after the Islamic movement suppressed the 1979 Iranian revolution. It was “Women’s rights are neither East nor West but universal”.
I always find it interesting how Islamists use the latest technology to intimidate and kill but when it comes to women’s rights, they are considered western.
Plus there is no “Muslim world”. There are as many differences of opinion in Tunisia as there are in Britain and France. Amina represents one strand; the Islamists another. She has much support not just in the west but in Tunisia, Iran and elsewhere. Her fight is also ours.
Do you have some advices for Tunisian woman? How shall they behave after this and taking in consideration the current political and social context?
I do think the tide has turned against Islamism. The revolutions in the region, the female-led resistance in many parts herald the end of Islamism’s unbridled rule. Tunisian women, all women and men, everywhere, must defend Amina and real freedom and equality.
As writer Caroline Fourest said: The call to Free Amina and Free Tunisia are the same cry. No country can be free without women being free. Irrespective of the political and social context, people everywhere want to live like 21st century human beings and not in the Middle Ages.
In this fight, Islamism will not leave the public square and scene quietly. But the women’s liberation movement will be what will put it in its place. No fight however is pre-destined. It depends on human will and intervention. Human solidarity, therefore, across borders and divides, can have a real impact on people’s lives. For one, I hope it can free Amina and in the process help free our world.
Can you tell me more about the 4th April – the International Day to Defend #Amina – and what are you hoping others will join you in doing?
Many have already joined in; large numbers of topless photos have been posted in her defence, the petition has already gained 106,000 signatures, and groups and individuals are organising for 4 April.
There are also many actions planned including in Germany, France, UK, Sweden, Norway and elsewhere. Here are some of the actions that have already taken place.
Islamist cleric Adel Almi called for Amina’s flogging and stoning to death because he said Amina’s actions would bring misfortune by causing “epidemics and disasters” and “could be contagious and give ideas to other women…”
On 4 April 2013 – International Day to Defend Amina – we will remind him, the Islamists and the world that the real epidemic and disaster that must be challenged is misogyny – Islamic or otherwise.
On 4 April we will breast them!
Long Live Amina!