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Abir Moussi: The Tunisian MP who was slapped however not crushed

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Abir Moussi gives a speech in Tunisia in March 2021.

Abir Moussi is a thorn within the aspect of political Islamists in Tunisia

When Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur hit international headlines for changing into the primary North African lady to succeed in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, one other Tunisian lady additionally made the news however for all of the incorrect causes.

Abir Moussi, the outspoken chief of the opposition Al-Dustur al-Hurr social gathering, was slapped and kicked as she was filming a parliamentary session on her cell phone in June.

The perpetrators had been two male members of parliament from an Islamist coalition.

They then threw water at her, adopted by the empty bottles and the entire incident was caught on TV cameras – to the shock and bewilderment of many within the Arab world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRYR76KVEAk

Ms Moussi is a passionate 47-year-old lawyer and indefatigable campaigner in opposition to political Islam and Tunisia’s model of it – generally known as the Nahda motion – which kinds the most important bloc in parliament.

She was as soon as a strong supporter of the ousted dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, and regards herself and her small social gathering because the guardians of the secular custom laid down by the founder of contemporary Tunisia, Habib Bourgiba.

He led the nation to independence and have become its first president, serving from1957 to 1987, and introducing women-friendly laws comparable to banning polygamy.

In parliament, Ms Moussi cuts a rare determine.

She attends periods sporting a helmet and a flak jacket as a result of, she says, she has acquired dying threats from Islamists.

She additionally retains a photograph of Bourgiba on her desk within the chamber and sometimes makes use of a hand-held megaphone to interrupt debates, whereas broadcasting the session stay from her cellular with operating commentary.

Her critics say she is a corrupt supporter of the outdated regime who desires to thwart Tunisia’s transition to democracy.

Shortly earlier than the parliamentary fracas in June, she upset her critics by opposing a improvement deal between Tunisia and Qatar – one of many principal monetary backers of political Islam within the area.

The Tunisian parliament has issued a robust assertion condemning the assault on Ms Moussi and vowed to inflict the harshest potential sanctions on the 2 males.

‘Home of obedience for ladies’

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Ms Moussi’s conduct – she is accused of obstructing the work of the parliament and violating parliamentary procedures – the actual fact stays that the incident has been seen and understood in Tunisia and past as merely two males bodily attacking a girl.

A woman draped in the national flag walks down a road on the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring.

Tunisia is the one nation the place the 2011 Arab Spring has led to a democratic authorities

Writing within the pan-Arab every day Al-Sharq al-Awast, Lebanese writer Hazem Saghiyyah mentioned he was particularly disenchanted as a result of Tunisia was the one nation the place the Arab Spring rebellion was a relative success, pointing to the 2017 approval of Regulation 58 regulation which promotes equality between the sexes.

As a substitute, Saghiyyah argues, the 2 males “wished to show the parliament into one other home of obedience, a lot bigger and extra authoritative than the household dwelling” – a reference to the controversial Islamic custom whereby a decide can order a spouse again to the marital dwelling if she has left it for any cause.

Pushback in opposition to ladies’s rights

Regulation 58 put Tunisia forward of lots of its neighbours and different Muslim majority nations so far as ladies’s rights are involved.

For instance, it broke the controversial Muslim custom of permitting a rapist to marry his sufferer to keep away from jail and to “shield the household honour” of the sufferer.

The regulation additionally strengthened safety for ladies who report violence in opposition to them to the police, and it obliges the police to refer them to hospital and deal with their complaints with due diligence.

Regardless of the progress on the authorized entrance, actuality tells a totally completely different story.

By all accounts, violence in opposition to ladies, and particularly home violence has elevated.

"There is an incredible wave of frustration and anger that's released on women."", Source: Aïsha Meddeb, Source description: 30-year-old project manager from Tunis, Image: Aïsha Meddeb

“There may be an unimaginable wave of frustration and anger that is launched on ladies.””, Supply: Aïsha Meddeb, Supply description: 30-year-old challenge supervisor from Tunis, Picture: Aïsha Meddeb

An area rights organisation says home violence kills a girl each week in Tunisia, and it has worsened in the course of the pandemic, says the Tunisian Affiliation of Democratic Girls.

“Violence in opposition to ladies is extra alarming than ever,” says Aïsha Meddeb, a younger skilled.

“There may be an unimaginable wave of frustration and anger that is launched on ladies. Like somebody attempting to remind us that we belong to wherever they need us to belong. Profitable ladies have existed since Bourguiba’s time.”

Yosra Frawes, the regional head of the Worldwide Federation for Human Rights, acknowledges the strides in laws to guard ladies’s rights, however provides that these have been lowered to mere “ink on paper”.

She says the risk to those enhancements comes from “the rise in right-wing and Islamic forces which search to render these legal guidelines ineffectual – by, for instance, tolerating the perpetrators, or individuals who disseminate outmoded concepts and encourage marrying underage women and marketing campaign in opposition to abortion”.

Ms Frawes says though Tunisian ladies get pleasure from important rights they’ve but to realize full equality.

‘Lengthy and arduous path’

The primary impediment to that could be a male-dominated society that renders all types of discrimination and violence acceptable, she argues.

“Tunisian ladies, like all ladies within the area, face a protracted and arduous path to realize recognition of their human rights and to get rid of all types of domination and violence… No matter type of authorities there’s, be it non secular or navy.

Removed from being a uniquely Tunisian downside, Saghiyyah argues that the oppression of ladies is growing throughout the area from Iran to North Africa.

He says that is partly attributable to the truth that the rights given to ladies had been imposed from above – as within the case of Turkey’s autocratic ruler Kemal Ataturk, or Bourgiba’s Tunisia.

That’s the reason it was straightforward for Islamists and their followers to arrange all that’s progressive – together with ladies’s freedom – as being in opposition to “the folks and their freedom”.

A woman is seen shouting at the front of a group of protesters in June 2021.

Police brutality and excessive unemployment have pushed younger Tunisians to protest in latest months

Again in June and nonetheless reeling from the assault in parliament, Ms Moussi made an impromptu speech:

“The place are you America,” she requested rhetorically. “Is that this how your democracy works? They’ve crushed me in entrance of you and in entrance of the entire world. Are these your democratic companions?” she added in tearful, and considerably melodramatic, tones.

The complete episode illustrates the elemental paradox troubling Tunisia’s transition to democracy, and different nations prefer it.

Modernisation launched by post-colonial autocrats comparable to Bourgiba might not survive the onslaught of the poll field.

In free and honest elections, deeply conservative forces might win the vote and set the liberalisation of society again, and ladies are sometimes the primary losers.

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