Thursday, August 26, 2010

Attack on women's rights in Tunisia

"Today, though, Tunisian women are not spared from the long and ruthless war on freedom of expression and association, of a kind unseen even under the French protectorate and which can no longer be camouflaged by the personal status code or Ben Ali's "achievements" or by western public relations firms.
The launch of this dirty war in the early 1990s coincided with new amendments to the personal status code and more rhetoric about Ben Ali's trumpeted commitment to women's rights, widely seen as an "attempt to project an image of modernity and democracy" while hiding another part of Tunisia's picture. The raging war at that time in neighbouring Algeria (between the military-backed government and armed groups infuriated by the cancellation in 1992 of the results of legislative elections the Islamists were poised to win) led many to overlook the merciless repression in Tunisia.  The first victims among women were scores of alleged supporters of two banned political opposition parties. They were jailed or held for interrogation, intimidated and threatened with prosecution and rape at police stations and the interior ministry, according to local and international groups. Most of them were close to or related to the jailed or exiled activists of the Islamist an-Nahda movement. A few others have been accused of supporting the Tunisian Workers' Communist party. None of the thousands of prisoners used violence or advocated the use of force to achieve their political goals."