Amina Sboui, the Tunisian member of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, gestures after she is released from prison in Sousse August 1, 2013. Amina was arrested in Kairouan on May 19 for placing a feminist banner on the wall of a mosque and trying to expose her breasts. REUTERS/Med Amine Benaziza (TUNISIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
TUNISIA

Topless Tunisian teen activist dumps Femen, but still takes naked selfies

The most notorious topless teen in Tunisia is breaking up with the women who helped make her a star. Roughly five months after Femen, the European-based women’s rights group inspired 19-year-old Amina Tyler to post two topless selfies on Facebook with pro-feminist messages scrawled across her chest, the celebrity activist has changed her tune about the controversial group.

Following a stint in a Tunisian prison, Tyler now says that her topless counterparts are just a bit too Islamophobic for her taste. “You have to respect the religion of others,” she told Huffington Post Maghreb on Tuesday. “I did not approve of the protest where the girls cried ‘Amina Akbar, Femen Akbar’ in front of the Tunisian embassy in France, or when they burnt the Tawheed [Salafist] flag in front of the Paris mosque.”

The split highlights an ongoing cultural clash between Femen and Arab women’s rights groups, which have often looked at the European women’s antics as more harmful than anything else. But the lines are hard to draw. Feminists in the Middle East may not think baring breasts is a necessary tool in the fight for equality, but religious clerics in India recently warned Muslim girls away from even posting clothed selfies on Facebook, calling it “un-Islamic.”

For Tyler, however, the split was as much about tactics as it was over Femen’s funding. “What if it [the group] is financed by Israel?” she asked. “I want to know. I don’t want to be in a movement supported by suspect money.” There’s no hard evidence anyone in Israel has given money to Femen, but it’s a popular conspiracy theory on anti-Semitic websites. What we do know is that the group makes money by selling Femen-branded products in various countries and accepts donations from a wide variety of people, including American businessmen and German DJs. They’ve also held rallies sponsored by underwear companies.

Femen reacted to Tyler’s comments with some unforgiving rhetoric. ”It’s thanks to this campaign that Amina is out of prison,” said Femen member Inna Shevchenko.  She’s “betraying the thousands of women in several countries who undressed to support her during the Free Amina campaign.” In a blog post on Tuesday, Femen more broadly declares that it was indeed breaking up with Tyler, even though she actually broke up with Femen first.

Femen breaks up with Amina Tyler screenshot

 

In March, Tyler, who is also known as Amina Sboui, invited the wrath of hardline clerics who wanted her lashed 100 times for her baring her breasts online. The harshness of their reaction sparked a worldwide “Free Amina” campaign, which gained momentum this summer after Tunisian authorities arrested Tyler for tagging “Femen” on a graveyard wall where Salafists were gathering for a meeting.

Despite the break with Femen, the Tunisian activist is taking some lengths to ensure both her detractors and admirers that she hasn’t abandoned feminism. Recently she released a topless photo in which she’s lighting a Molotov cocktail with the end of a cigarette, and “we don’t need your democracy” is written across her chest.

 

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