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    Fact v. Fiction

    Syria's 'Sex Jihad'

    A Tunisian official says young women are returning home pregnant after serving as concubines to Syrian jihadis. Vivian Salama investigates the controversial claim.

    Syrian activists say there are virtually no grounds for claims that foreign women are traveling to their country to participate in a so-called “sex jihad,” following comments by a Tunisian official that women were returning home from Syria pregnant.

    Tunisia’s Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou remarked in an address to the National Constituent Assembly last week that women were traveling to Syria “in the name of sexual jihad,” adding that they are allegedly “swapped between 20, 30 and 100 rebels, and they come back bearing the fruit” of those contacts.


    Bra Burners

    What’s the Big Deal about Femen?

    The story behind the feminist campaign, and why Muslim women are fighting back.

    The feminist group Femen has been staging topless protests since 2009, but in the last month it has gained particular notoriety. On March 8, a Tunisian Femen activist named Amina Tyler posted a topless photo of herself on the group’s Facebook page and immediately incited outrage in her country. She had to go into hiding when her life was threatened, and in supposed solidarity, other members of Femen altered the photo so that text on her chest read “F*ck your morals.” Women in European branches of the group staged protests on April 4, Tyler’s birthday, with the same message scrawled on their chests, or the Islamic crescent on their nipples. In Paris, they burned the Islamic flag in front of the Grand Mosque. Many women across the Muslim world resented these actions, finding them to be Islamophobic and counterproductive, and created the hashtag #MuslimahPride to speak out against Femen. The group’s founder, Inna Schevchenko, responded in its defense: “We are here for you and for all of us… we don't care how many times your men are praying, but we care a lot what they do in between. We care a lot about violence and aggression, we care a lot when your fathers, brothers and husbands are raping and killing, when they call to stone your sisters, we care a lot when they burn embassies etc, and all that for Allah!” Even with the best of intentions, however, the European, mainly-white response to the difficulties faced by women in the Arab world feels more than a little “culturally tone-deaf,” as Women’s eNews has it.

  • Tunisian women shout slogans during a demonstration call by the opposition and the Tunisian General Union of Workers (UGTT), at the Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis, Tunisia, on March 9, 2013. (Mohamed Messara/EPA, via Landov )

    Tunisia’s Dark Turn

    Jamie Dettmer on how women in Tunisia are less free than before the revolution.

    Once it was a rare sight to see women wearing the hijab on the streets of Tunis, but no longer. Now more women do than don’t, and very few risk harassment or disapproving eyes by wearing a skirt to walk the city’s main shopping thoroughfares, even on sunny March days.

    Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings, but many Tunisian women say they feel less free now than under the secular rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first of the region’s autocrats to fall. They worry that their North African country is succumbing rapidly to hardline Muslim pressure, despite claims by the leader of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, that they have nothing to fear. “Ennahda believes in the absolute equality between the sexes. No one will outdo Ennahda in that regard.”