PARIS (AFP) – A Tunisian activist said on French television Saturday that she feared for her life after courting controversy by posting topless pictures of herself online in support of Arab women’s rights last month.
The young woman, who goes by the name of Amina Tyler, provoked the ire of Islamist groups when she posted the pictures of herself online with the words “My body belongs to me” and “F(expletive) your morals” emblazoned across her naked breasts, in feisty homage to the Ukrainian women’s power group Femen.
Shortly after, she disappeared from public view, raising fears that she had suffered reprisals at the hands of extremists and giving rise to a number of rallies around the globe supporting her.
In the interview with Canal Plus television’s special reports show “Effet Papillon” broadcast Saturday, a tired-looking Tyler said she was afraid for her safety in Tunisia.
The young woman said she had received several death threats by telephone and via her Facebook account — phrases like “You will die” and “We will throw acid at your face, things like that”, she said.
“I need to leave Tunisia, I’m afraid for my life and the lives of my family. There are a lot of rumours about what the Salafists want to do to me,” she said.
After the photos appeared, Tyler’s family drove her home, she explained, where her cousin “destroyed her telephone SIM card” and “beat her”.
Later the family moved to a town three hours from Tunis, she said, where she was forced to stay at her home.
Tyler nevertheless said she did not regret baring her breasts and would remain a Femen “until I’m 80 years old”. She added that she wanted to become a journalist and “help the Femen in some way or other”.
But she condemned the burning of an Islamic flag by three feminists in front of Paris’s Great Mosque on Thursday during one of a number of rallies against Islamists held in front of Tunisian embassies and mosques by activists berating a crackdown by Islamists against Arab women.
“I am against” that, she said.
“Everyone is going to think that I encouraged it. That is unacceptable.”
No official complaint has been lodged against Tyler, according to her lawyer.
But she risks six months in prison for breaching the peace.
The Femen movement has flourished since 2010, with feminists around the world stripping off in protest against issues ranging from homophobia to prostitution and sexism.
Tunisian women are some of the most free in the Arab world but have limited inheritance rights, which women’s groups say have been further abused by the ruling Islamist party Ennahda.