Happy International Topless Jihad Day!

By Rebecca Fitzsimons


All images courtesy of FEMEN.

After Amina Tyler – a 19-year-old Tunisian activist from radical, topless feminist group FEMEN – posted a topless selfie of herself on Facebook in solidarity with the movement, she was allegedly captured and admitted to a psychiatric ward. Because committing and drugging someone for baring their breasts is obviously fucking insane, a worldwide campaign – "Free Amina!" – has sprung up in outrage at Amina's treatment.  

Obviously, not everyone is outraged – in fact, some have called for an even more stringent punishment. Tunisian preacher Almi Adel – head of "the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" (yep, that's a real thing) – was quoted as saying: "The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100 lashes, but [because of] the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves to be stoned to death. Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary to isolate [the incident]. I wish her to be healed."

After that little tirade of hate and overreaction, Amina went missing, and despite her family lawyer's most recent claim that she is "safe and back at home", no one has heard from her directly. In her last interview, she spoke about her fear of being beaten or raped by the Tunisian police, telling Italian journalist Federica Tourn: "the police in Tunisia do not act like the police in Europe". Since Amina's disappearance, the Tunisian FEMEN social media accounts have reportedly been hacked repeatedly, with videos and pictures being replaced by verses of the Qur'an. 

Today, in their campaign to save Amina, FEMEN are encouraging the women of the world to use their bodies as posters in what they're calling "International Topless Jihad Day". On their website, they're calling on women all around the world to sign petitions, write letters, post protest selfies and "do topless action near embassy of Tunisia in your city", all in the name of "Titslamism" (their genius wordplay, not mine).

I had a quick chat with Sasha Shevchenko, activist and co-founder of FEMEN, to find out a little more.


Sasha (with the blonde hair) protesting outside a mosque in Berlin with other FEMEN members.

VICE: Hi Sasha. What's your involvement with FEMEN?
Sasha Shevchenko: I'm a co-founder, so I'm creating the ideology, strategy and tactics of the movement. And, at the moment, I'm leading FEMEN Germany. Our plans are to go to Latin America after Germany to develop FEMEN there next.

How did you meet Amina?
Amina contacted me through a German activist, Klara, about a month and a half ago and we started to discuss FEMEN Tunisia via Skype and Facebook. A few days later she made her first picture – "Fuck your morals" – and posted it on her Facebook page. Then, over the next two weeks, she took more photos of herself. We were keeping in touch and were planning on us going over to Tunisia for a public action. 

And what's happened to her now? 
She disappeared after a speech by the Salafist imam Adel Almi and it turned out she'd been captured by the police and a few members of her family. We started the campaign to save Amina during those few days of silence, but now we've finally found out that she's alive. She's suffering, but she's alive.

Have you managed to get in contact with her? Do you know how she's doing?
No, she's completely under her family's control and has been drugged, so it's impossible to get hold of her. 

Jesus. So what's the deal with International Topless Jihad Day?
We've developed our tactics and we're calling it "sextremism", but it'll still be in the style of protests we've done before.

What's the message you're sending out to the world?
The official message we're sending is: "The one who was oppressed will become free, the one who was weak will become strong. Our bodies belong to us only! Islamism is strong in the face of those who are oppressed, but Islamism is weak when faced with the rebellion of our free bodies! Our breasts are more dangerous then their stones!"

What do you think we've learned about feminism throughout the Arab Spring?
We've learned that women are just instruments in the hands of revolutionaries, no matter what the revolution might be. Women can become free only by their own revolution against patriarchy, never as a part of society of men and for men. Only naked war. We don't have other ways. 

Okay, great – thanks Sasha. Anything else you want to say?
Naked freedom. Fuck religion! Women are against Islamism! Our tits are deadlier than your stones!

Keep up to date with FEMEN at their website.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaCFitz

More feminist stuff:

Lena Dunham Made Me a Feminist

You're a Pussy if You Think There's a War On Men

I Was Raped and the Police Told Me I Made it Up

There's a Feminist Propaganda War

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