Dr. El-Masri is an adjunct professor in the department of graduate studies at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
The role of women in the 2011 wave of protests, demonstrations and riots — nicknamed "the Arab Spring" by the Western media1 — was crucial, but many observers have started wondering whether women's postrevolutionary status will reflect their invaluable contribution. In Tunisia, women have enjoyed and practiced numerous rights since the 1950s. The various measures the state enacted to achieve gender equality have placed the country at the top position in the region with respect to women's rights. While this study acknowledges the impressive Tunisian record and the revolutionary role of Habib Bourguiba, later reinforced by Zine El Abidine Bin Ali, it draws attention to a grim reality. Not only did the two rulers coopt women's organizations into the state and punish feminist dissent; they also used the woman card to please the West and bargain with the Islamists, bolstering those rights when they wanted to weaken the Islamic movement, and ignoring them when they sought to appease it. It is this dependence on the Ben Ali regime and the rise of political Islam that have posed the most serious challenges to women in Tunisia since the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.
The liberal trend favoring women started with Tahar Haddad, a respectable Muslim scholar in Zitouna University, the most prestigious theological institution in Tunisia. In 1930, he wrote a controversial text, Our Women in Sharia and in Society, calling for changes in women's status and their education, not to liberate women per se, but to make them better wives, mothers and citizens.2 His writings created a positive atmosphere that encouraged women to seek a more active role in society. However, this was not enough to create a strong women's movement to fight for gender equality. Women activists, like Bchira Ben Mrad, chose to concentrate their efforts on liberating their country from the French, participating in demonstrations and getting arrested along with their male comrades. In 1936, when the first women's organization, the Union Musulmane des Femmes de Tunisie (UMFT), was established to promote women's education, following the ideas of Tahar Haddad, it was also joined by nationalist leaders and was used to coordinate national resistance.3 Other NGOs were established, like the Union des Jeunes Filles de Tunisie (UFT), which placed more emphasis on social and labor organizations. In 1950, the Neo-Destour Party also founded its first official women's section.4 But in all these cases, the Tunisian national movement did not give close attention to the status of women in society until later in its development, according to Laurie Brand.5 The priority even among liberals was to liberate the country; women's emancipation had to be postponed. Sure enough, in 1956, soon after independence, Habib Bourguiba, head of the Neo-Destour party, which he renamed the Destourian Socialist Party (PSD) in 1964, became the first president of the country. One of the first laws6 he issued was the Code of Personal Status (CPS) to remove all injustice, rehabilitate women and confer upon them their rights.7
Bourguiba, who ruled Tunisia until 1987, was deeply influenced by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey and was equally committed to a nationalist, secularist and modernist society, which could not materialize without the active participation of half of the population: women.8 For this to happen, the Tunisian mentality, habits and traditions had to change through certain laws, measures and actions — dubbed "La féminisme Bourguibien."9 The CPS, which came into effect on January 1, 1957, was at the heart of this policy, granting women myriad progressive rights. According to Article 18, "polygamy is prohibited. Marrying more than one woman shall incur a punishment of one year's imprisonment and a fine of 240,000 francs or either of these."10 Bourguiba believed polygamy had to disappear; it was outdated, like slavery — also mentioned in the Quran, along with its obligations and trade conditions.11 Article 5 of the CPS increased a woman's minimum legal age of marriage to 15 (amended to become 17 in 1964) and granted women the right to choose a marriage partner, including non-Muslim, free from coercion — especially from her father or legal guardian. In the case of divorce, women were given equal rights not only to dissolve the marriage, but to become the principal guardian of their children, regardless of gender (Article 57). The spirit of the code was transmitted into the 1959 Tunisian Constitution itself; Article 6 states: "All citizens have the same rights and obligations. All are equal before the law." It also granted voting rights to Tunisian women.
Other laws and decrees proved equally important in improving the status of women in Tunisia. As part of its policy for family planning,12 in addition to providing free contraceptives and counseling services, Bourguiba's regime started legalizing abortion in 1965 by making it available to women with more than five children. The circle of beneficiaries was expanded in 1973, when a law was passed to allow any woman to have an abortion within the first three months of pregnancy, even without the husband's approval. Second, in 1981, another important decree (108) was passed and renewed through Decree 102 of 1986, banning the veil and "sectarian clothes" inside public buildings, offices, schools, universities and hospitals. In fact, Bourguiba was the only Arab leader who dared to remove the veil, which he called an "odious rag," from Tunisian women's heads. He did it on national television to encourage others to do the same.13 According to Bourguiba, like Tahar Haddad before him, the veil carries no moral significance; he placed the moral burden not only on women alone, but also on men. Finally, education was given special attention by the state, because it helps transform traditional attitudes towards women in society. Free education was offered to both genders; coed schools were established; and families were encouraged to enroll their daughters for advanced degrees that would lead to good jobs.
Throughout that time, the women's movement was more or less dormant. This started to change in the late 1970s and 1980s, encouraged by both internal and external events. The 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew the shah and introduced Islamic law, restricting the rights of women. In Egypt, "Jihan's Law," a set of progressive rights specifically relating to divorce and backed by First Lady Jihan Sadat, was declared unconstitutional for its lack of conformity with Islamic law. Finally, a crisis within the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme, or LTDH) occurred, the result of a demand from an Islamist-oriented group to subject the CPS to a referendum. This worried Tunisian women the most;14 the CPS that they had taken for granted for so long might not be permanent after all. As a result, Tunisian women tried to make their voices heard through their publications, clubs and organizations.
During that period, various articles and books were published that challenged the regime's official version of Tunisian history, which ignored women's participation in the fight against colonialism and their work to achieve women's rights. New light was shed on the activities of the UFT, The UMFT and the women's section of the Association of Muslim Youth and Neo-Destour in this regard, giving them legitimacy and credibility.15 The most prominent publication in this context was a magazine called Nissa, established in 1985 as a successor to the first Tunisian magazine, Leila. For two years they were allowed to work with autonomy, giving interested women — and men — a space to discuss topics concerning women and their reality. Clubs and other organizations flourished as well. In 1978, for example, a group of students, later joined by lawyers, academics and journalists, created the Tahar Al Haddad Club to study the situation of women and encourage them to actively participate in the economic and cultural development of the county. The club was trying not only to raise awareness among women that rights given to them by law might be violated in practice, but also to challenge the refusal of men to recognize the validity of female oppression.16 Two apparently independent women's associations were also formed: the Association Tunisienne des Femmes Democratés (ATFD) and the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTRD), which included women in professions like journalism, teaching and law. However, they were not able to institutionalize legally until Bourguiba was deposed — in a bloodless coup by Zine Al-Abidine Bin Ali (1987-2011).17
In the first year of Ben Ali's rule, Tunisians18 in general were very hopeful that their second president since independence would bring them qualitative changes, especially when he seemed determined to be viewed as a reformer. He abolished the presidency-for-life system, renamed Bourguiba's PSD party the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD),19 and granted amnesty to thousands of political prisoners after he abolished the state security court, signed the Convention against Torture, and reformed laws governing detention. He also supported new legislation that made it easier to form associations and parties.20 In 1988, the regime had decided to sponsor a National Pact involving all the major actors, including some of the feminist groups, in order to appear to be a democratic, pluralistic society and reinforce the importance of the CPS without any modification.
In fact, Ben Ali showed a similar commitment to the cause of women, granting a second wave of women's rights during the 1990s. Thus, nationality was given to children of non-Tunisian fathers, measures were taken to increase the presence of women in education, especially in rural areas, and new values, such as liberty, equality and a positive image of women, were inserted into the curriculum and instruction manuals.21 He also established a special Ministry for Women and Family Affairs in 1993.22 That same year, the government supported legislation to increase the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both genders and to drop the CPS statement that wives must obey husbands. A major advancement was also recorded in 2000, when the law requiring a husband's consent for his wife to sign a labor contract was abrogated. Ben Ali also renewed the ban on veils through Decree 35 in 2001.
Perhaps the major development during Ben Ali's era was the special consideration for divorced women, granting them more rights than ever and creating a fund to guarantee alimony and child support.23 Domestic violence was criminalized, and all special considerations for honor crimes were lifted.24 The political representation of women during Ben Ali's time was considerable in comparison to the other Arab states: 22.8 percent of seats in the lower house and 13.4 percent in the upper house in 2006. They also held 7.1 percent of ministerial appointments as of 2005, and their quota in local councils increased to 25 percent in the same year. Until 2011, Tunisia had 27.6 percent female political representation.25
A POLITICAL TOOL
It is no secret that the achievement of gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has stumbled on various challenges, despite the fact that all of the countries in the region ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).26 Specific interpretation of holy books, cultural restraints, the weaknesses of CEDAW itself, the sweeping reservations of the Arab states on the convention are all important factors that keep holding women back.27 However, there is an additional problem that should be highlighted and emphasized: the use of women's rights as a political card in the hand of the regimes. The following section will show how both Bourguiba and Ben Ali coopted women's organizations into the state, oppressed any feminist dissent, and used the woman card as a bargaining tool with the Islamists.
COOPTATION OF THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT
The cooptation of leaders, elites and groups by regimes to reinforce their power and immobilize dissent is not a new strategy. The European colonizers used it in the Middle East and North Africa to "win the goodwill of potentially belligerent elites and to demonstrate their commitment to important ethnic groups and tribes."28 This cooptation usually worked on moderates, especially when the grievance of the group that they represented was not significant enough to mean a loss of status. 29 Even after the European powers left, the newly independent countries used similar strategies to reinforce their control over the system. This was done not only by authoritarian regimes like Morocco, for example, but also in apparently democratic ones like Israel. Ian Lustick explains in his Arabs in the Jewish State how Israel worked to coopt Arab leaders, especially from the Druze minority, in order to prevent them from investing their energies into mobilizing the Arab community against the state.30
Cooptation has not only been used on ethnic or minority groups and local leaders but also on women. According to Kathleen M. Fallon,31 most regimes prior to democratization attempted to co-opt women, to reinforce their power, especially in Eastern Europe and Latin America. However, this cooptation had different outcomes in different historical and political contexts. Fallon explains that in Latin America, in their capacity as "mothers of the nation," women used their small groups or soup kitchens to rise against the regime in an attempt to end the disappearance and the torture of family members. By contrast, in Eastern Europe, women were expected to take care of their families and also work full time, leaving them no time to organize. As for sub-Saharan Africa, Fallon explains that women were coopted through state-run women's organizations, not only due to the general authoritarian environment, which scares away dissent, but also because women favored state-run organizations for their better funding and resources. Another reason behind the success for cooptation of women by these regimes is their rough treatment by the state; they have disengaged from formal politics in favor of socioeconomic and political efforts at the community level.32 In Tunisia, women's organizations have never had much confrontation with the state, but they were coopted in any case.
Since the 1950s, it has been the Tunisian state that carried the beacon of women's rights and not any feminist movement; at that time, "feminism took a back seat to nationalism."33 This was the victory of a regime that was strong enough to enforce a reformist interpretation of Islam.34 It was the victory of one man, the head of the republic, Habib Bourguiba. He used this asset to bolster his position vis-à-vis the West. These rights and the low percentage of veiled women were used as symbols of the country's "modernity" and secularization.35 More significant, he used this card to consolidate his position, not only as the leader of the nation but also as the supreme liberator of Tunisian women, sparing them the agony of fighting these battles themselves. In return, he expected full gratitude and loyalty from women, who were supposed to concentrate on playing their part in modernizing Tunisia, now that their rights were granted. However, the issuance of the CPS as a top-down code without much feminist struggle made many women take these rights for granted. They were satisfied with what they got and saw no need for further civil and political empowerment. Most important, they tied their status to the changing considerations of the leadership.36 Feminism had been coopted by the state.
Two years after the issuance of the CPS, Bourguiba merged the UMFT with the women's cells of his Neo-Destour party to make the Union Nationale des Femmes de Tunisie (UNFT).37 This meant the further cooptation of the feminist movement, especially when its action plans were actually derived from Bourguiba's directives. "State feminism" was the result. Not only was women's expression of their interests bound to this organization; the continuity of their status depended on the regime's support and its willingness to enforce any further improvement in their economic and political rights.38
Like his predecessor, Ben Ali used women as political pawns. The woman card served Ben Ali's interests by attracting Western support and praise, 39 and by consolidating Tunisian women's support and loyalty. It is true that the Ben Ali regime allowed women activists to function, and additional advances for women were registered, but only as long as they reflected and complimented the policies of the state. As Emma Murphy explained, women's organizations were not "to challenge government policy, but to contribute to it through institutional structures."40
During this time, another form of cooptation was used: the first lady, Leila Trabelsi, was put forward as the representative of Tunisian women and the person in charge of their cause. She became the head of the Organization of Arab Women, the Centre of Arab Women for Promotion and Research, the national conferences of the National Union of Tunisian Women, the World Congress of Women Executives and the Basma Association. Her organizations attracted lavish funding and support, and she garnered multiple local and international awards for her contributions.41 She gained increasing control of the system as her husband's health deteriorated, asking advisers and ministers to call her "Madame La Presidente" and instructing them to come to her first with requests that she would then present to her husband.42 The problem, however, was that she was despised by Tunisians in general, and women in particular, sometimes even more than her husband.43 She was a symbol of corruption and nepotism, as confirmed by U.S. embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks in December 2010.44 For years, she stole Tunisian money and artifacts and placed her family, "the mafia," in key positions, controlling up to 40 percent of the economy.45 The family was free to call people from their homes and to confiscate their businesses or their lands.46 Her life style was scandalously ostentatious in the eyes of the Tunisian people.47 "Women's Day" itself was despised for the extravagant show put on in the Carthage palace to honor the first lady.48
All of this pretense led authors like Louisa Dris-Ait-Hamadouche to conclude that in Tunisia, "state feminism was a hollow political language that used first ladies as models of women's liberation to maintain power and was devoid of policies to help rural women."49 State policies under Ben Ali, despite the advancement of women rights through a top-down approach, 50 perpetuated the fragmentation of women's interests and their lack of independence, threatening their ability to negotiate with the state.
THE SUPPRESSION OF FEMINIST DISSENT
Because all feminist activities have to be done through certain channels controlled by the regime, independent feminist NGOs were discouraged if not banned, and feminist opposition was repressed, like all other opposition to the state. Because Bourguiba wanted to be seen as the sole liberator and the hero of women in the country, many important figures were marginalized and silenced. Thus, towards the end of the 1950s, for example, Bechira Ben Mrad, the leader of the UMFT for 20 years, was pushed aside and humiliated by being offered an undistinguished place in the new union, the UNFT. The activities of the other feminist organizations, like the UFT, were closely monitored by the police and their leaders arrested and interrogated; their passports were taken away in many cases. Members faced the option of either joining the UNFT or boycotting it. Those who joined were surprised by the rigidity of the new organization and its decision-making process.51 Women who stayed with the UFT tried in vain to register the organization with the new regime but failed; they finally had to close it down in 1963.52
Even dissent inside the UNFT and within the framework of the Socialist Destourian Party (PSD) was not tolerated. According to the regime, the Code of Personal Status gave Tunisian women their rights and more. Any feminist who asked for additional demands was viewed as ungrateful53 and deserved to be penalized. Radhia Haddad, the leader of the UNFT from 1958 to 1972, was Bourguiba's niece and his personal choice for the position. When she sought more changes to the CPS, Bourguiba refused, so she joined the liberal wing of the PSD, headed by Ahmed Mestiri, an opponent of the president.54 The result: her term as the president of the UNFT was ended, her passport was confiscated and her parliamentary immunity was lifted. She was eventually prosecuted and penalized.55
When Ben Ali took over, he expanded the oppressive measures of the regime by means of a police apparatus of 150,00056 who were used to intimidate, harass and punish dissidents, and infiltrate civil-society organizations. In addition, a network of modern surveillance and control was established, including Internet censorship, which limited the ability of the opposition to criticize the regime.57 Those who did, whether men or women, were punished equally, especially those belonging to Islamic groups.
It is true that the NGO law allowing more organizations to legally function in the state did lead to the emergence of myriad feminist organizations such as the Tunisian Association of Mothers, the Association for the Promotion of Women's Economic Projects and the Association of Women's Activity for Sustainable Development, among others. But like his predecessor, Ben Ali tried to ensure that all these organizations, the largest of which remained the UNFT, were affiliated in one way or another to his party and that none of them could legally function without the formal recognition and support of the Ministry of Culture. In effect, this meant that those women's organizations critical of the regime were denied permission to legally function.58 Those given that permission found themselves working in a civil society controlled by state-sponsored women's organization or party-affiliated associations.
WOMEN AS A BARGINING TOOL WITH THE ISLAMISTS
It seems that in countries where political Islam won, women lost, not only in countries ruled by Islamists but also in countries where ruling parties decide to coopt, attract or ally themselves with Islamic groups. The opposite also appears to be true. When regimes decided to control and weaken the Islamists, women seemed to enjoy more freedom and rights. Tunisia fits this pattern.
From the beginning of his rule, Bourguiba wanted to undermine any independent base of Islamist or traditionalist opposition to his regime.59 He therefore replaced the independent Zitouna religious university with a faculty of theology integrated into the University of Tunis, where the instructors are chosen from state institutions and nominated by the president. He made members of the religious hierarchy state employees and ordered that the expenses for the upkeep of mosques and the salaries of preachers be drawn from the state budget. He also did not follow certain Islamic practices, including fasting. During Ramadan,60 Bourguiba appeared on television sipping tea, explaining that the abstention from food and drink reduces strength and productivity.61 This is in addition to issuing the CPS, which was met with fierce criticism from the sheikhs of Zitouna because of its excessive Westernization and its deviations from Islamic law, specifically with respect to divorce and polygamy.62
Bourguiba was seeking, according to Nikkie R. Keddie, to diminish the influence of religion and tribes. 63 His objective was not to secularize the state, but to subjugate the religious authorities. He still needed Islam to legitimize his rule, and he was careful to show that his policies were not a direct threat to Islam. In fact, he introduced compulsory Islamic education into the public-education system, although it was progressive in nature, and he explained his progressive activities in Islamic terms. He based his abstinence from fasting, for example, on a new interpretation of the Quran, stating that those who are involved in jihad do not have to fast, and that his country was in a jihad against poverty and misery.64 In other words, he introduced revolutionary concepts into Tunisian culture rather than abandoning it.
It is true that the Islamists considered the CPS a direct assault on Islam. To them, Islamic family law is the last fortress of sharia and the only place where Islamic principles still hold, but Bourguiba was careful to point out that the ulama had approved it and that it was actually based on the sharia. After all, his aim was to promote Tunisian women's rights but without transforming them into Westerners. The CPS, which conformed to Islamic law with respect to inheritance, did not alter the supreme position of the husband in his family. Article 23 of the CPS states that the wife "shall respect her husband as head of the family, and, within these prerogatives, obey him in whatever he orders her, and perform her marital duties in conformity with usage and custom."65 Even the prohibition of polygamy was explained in Islamic terms, based on a liberal interpretation of Surat An-Nisa in the Quran, which does permit "two or three or four" wives. The CPS focuses, however, on the second part of the Sura as explained by Bourguiba himself: "The general spirit of the Quran is directed towards monogamy as indicated in the verse ‘in case you fear being unfair, you must marry one woman.'"66 As for the hijab (veil), although he urged women to take it off, he called on them to show restraint and awareness of the dangers that threaten them and be armed with a "consciousness of dignity."67
During the 1970s, it was leftists who were considered the true enemies of the regime, which not only responded with widespread oppression, but also sought alliance with another important group: the Islamists.68 The Bourguiba regime tried to gain their support by encouraging the observance of Islamic practice. It adjusted working hours, made Islamic education stricter or more "Islamized,"69 and created several religious associations, such as the Association for Preserving the Quran, which quickly became a training ground for Islamists. Even the writings of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood were circulated upon the initiative of the first Tunisian Salon du Livre in 1973, because it was considered to be opposed to Marxism. From this trend emerged the Islamic movement, the Mouvement de Tendance Islamiste (MTI) — later renamed Ennahda — which attacked the CPS for encouraging divorce and hurting the Tunisian economy and family. They believed in limited contact between the genders, the revival of traditional forms of dress, and reform of the CPS to restrict divorce rights and reintroduce polygamy.
The government did not amend the CPS to please these groups, but its commitment to liberating Tunisian women weakened. The husband remained the sole head of the family and the sole owner of the marital home. Gender inequality with respect to inheritance persisted. In 1973, marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim was forbidden unless the spouse converted to Islam. During this period, the government's diligence in protecting the code faded as well, leaving judges to use their own Islamic interpretation of the CPS, although Islam was not cited as a source of this law.70
However, by 1980, the tide started to turn. It became clear to Bourguiba's regime that the leftists were becoming weak and had lost popular support; their rising enemy was the Islamic movement. The regime freed scores of leftists from political imprisonment and legalized the Communist Party in 1981. During that time, more Islamists were imprisoned and prosecuted. This was intensified with the rising influence of Iran, as its mullahs tried to export their Islamic model abroad, including to Tunisia, where it found an attentive audience in its Islamic movement. The insistence that its women wear long black veils and its men beards prompted Bourguiba to ban veils altogether, considering them alien to Tunisian society.71
When Ben Ali took over, he decided to change this strategy by trying to pacify and coopt the Islamists. He attacked his predecessor's secularism, stressing the government's role as the defender of Islam and morality and taking every opportunity to demonstrate his attachment to Islam, including making a pilgrimage to Mecca.72 He also allowed the movement to take part in the high council of the National Pact, in the Islamic High Council and in the parliamentary elections of 1989.73 As for women, he stated clearly that there would be "the code and nothing but the code," assuring the Islamists that there would be no further reforms to the code.74
During this period, the leader of Ennahda, Rashid Ghannoushi, realized that the restrictions on women's rights and their continuous attacks on the CPS were costing them popularity. Despite his insistence on some of the movement's old demands — prohibiting women from marrying non-Muslims and keeping the Islamic law of inheritance — he accepted the abolition of polygamy and the right of women to divorce. This pragmatism might partly explain the victory of Ennahda in the 1989 Chamber of Deputies elections,75 which put the Islamists and the regime on a confrontational course once again.
The 1989 elections showed Ben Ali the true potential of Ennahda, transforming it into the top enemy of the state. An Islamist attack on an RCD office in Ban Souika gave Ben Ali the perfect excuse to round them up and jail them or send them into exile. His case became stronger when the government discovered arms caches, which were used as evidence for their treason. Eventually, Ennahda was disbanded76 — until 2011 — leaving its members vulnerable to prosecution on grounds of membership in an illegal organization, an offense punishable by up to five years in prison. In May 1989, Ghannoushi fled to London, where he remained until the revolution of 2011.77
This crackdown on Islamists was accompanied by the regime's renewed commitment to women's rights. As explained earlier, towards the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, although a group of the Islamists announced their intent to preserve the CPS, others spoke of repealing it or subjecting it to referendum78 because it does not conform to the sharia. This direct attack on their rights initiated the rise of a women's movement in response. The regime opened up a space for women to mobilize and backed their demands by enacting myriad additional laws — discussed earlier — to advance their rights. This was done by the state not only to weaken the Islamists' influence further, but also to consolidate women's support for the regime through their fear of the Islamic movement, the bogeyman that only the regime can save them from. It is because of this calculated move by the state that various women's associations like the AFTD and the AFTURD were allowed to emerge to defend the CPS, to stand as "watchdog of gender legislation,"79 and to contribute to the emergence of a second major wave of reforms in the 1990s under the Ben Ali regime.80
However, deteriorating living conditions and widespread corruption and oppression eventually led to what was dubbed the "Jasmine Revolution,"81 after Mohammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest. Mass demonstrations led to the fall of the regime and the flight of Ben Ali and his family to Saudi Arabia, leaving the country in a state of emergency and Fouad Mebazaa as the acting president. A few months later, the RCD was disbanded, and the election of the Constituent Assembly was held. The first free election in the country resulted in an Ennahda majority in the legislature, which was entrusted with drafting a new constitution82 that finally saw light in January 2014.
AFTER THE JASMINE REVOLUTION
If Tunisian women had been granted most of their rights and were considered as a group to be the major supporter and defender of the regime, why did they switch sides and play a critical role in the success of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011? Documentation suggests that women from all walks of life, whether rural or urban, secularist or Islamist, educated or not, stood side by side with their male counterparts to demand Ben Ali's resignation. Female bloggers like Lina Ben Mhenni were as active as their male counterparts in mobilizing and maintaining the momentum of the revolution. But this suggests that there were similar demands that somehow united women against the regime and encouraged them to jeopardize their traditional privileged position. In general, all Tunisians wanted economic advancement. Many polls suggested that majorities in several MENA countries, including Tunisia, valued a strong economy over a democratic government.83 After all, Bouazizi burnt himself to death to protest economic hardship. Rural women felt it particularly. For decades, they had suffered from poverty and a lack of infrastructure, alienated from urban-based women's organizations that they regarded as provocative, bourgeois and irrelevant.84 They were also alienated from the state, a deficit that was capitalized on by the Islamists.85
Women in general asked for accountability, freedom of expression and political participation. Freedom was a general demand of all Tunisians. Women's organizations struggled to function independently, and women dissidents were not spared imprisonment or exile by virtue of being female. Many Islamist women not only had to see their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons dragged to jail, they were also penalized themselves.86
Many women-specific issues were also demanded, but to no avail. The loss of a divorced woman's custody of her child if she remarries, gender inequality with respect to inheritance, and the weakness of legislation against domestic abuse are injustices that many women's organizations are still working to correct.87 This is in addition to problems of enforcement. Judges continue to rule not according to the CPS but Islamic law, which might restrict women's rights. To all of these women, regime change was considered a ticket to a better life. The regime changed, but the aftershock caught women by surprise. Two major challenges threatened their status and forced them to defend the continuity of rights they had enjoyed for decades: their close interdependence as a group with the Ben Ali regime, and the restrictive Islamist perspective on women's rights.
A common characteristic of all the MENA uprisings of 2011 was the lack of a unified leadership with a shared vision for the future. All the demonstrators agreed that Ben Ali's regime had to fall, but they were far from unanimous on what would come after. Whether in Egypt or Tunisia, everything that represented the old regime had to go. Unfortunately, since one of the cornerstones of the Ben Ali regime was state feminism, hatred was directed against women's rights as another symbol of the old regime. Even liberals were not enthusiastic about defending the status of women. There were more pressing problems, like economic stagnation, and the women's association was linked to the unpopular regime and to the West, 88 whose influence they were trying to limit.
Using the first lady as a symbol of Tunisian women made things worse. Leila Trabelsi, like Suzanne Mubarak in Egypt and to a lesser extent Queen Rania in Jordan and Asma Al Assad in Syria, came to "incarnate the ills and excesses of the corrupt regimes led by their husbands, regimes in which they, too, are deeply complicit."89 The majority of the women leaders were also despised. As we explained earlier, prior to 2011, most women who chose to be active in civil society were by necessity members of the RCD and the dependent female organizations in the realm of the state. The majority of women leaders were considered part of the Ben Ali entourage and thus not credible enough to be part of the political institutions of either the transitional government or the political parties.90 Adding to the problem, women were unsure how to proceed. Chema Gargouri, president of the Tunisian Association for Management and Social Stability,91 observed that women after the revolution "started to lose their self-esteem." Their rights have always been given to them without much struggle, but now, with the rise of the Islamist threat, they are forced to act.
Although the Islamic movement had a very limited role in the revolution, its increasing influence and success in the first election after the revolution posed a bigger challenge for women. The growing influence of Ennahda can be credited to the increasing Islamization of the society and to its economic plan, which attracted ordinary Tunisians — limiting short-term work contracts that lack benefits and ensuring the availability of speedy capital to start new businesses. The party had also reached out to ordinary Tunisian women. Rachid Ghannoushi, the leader of Ennahda, tried on various occasions to address women's fears by assuring them that the CPS is indeed derived from the sharia and thus will not be touched, 93 that polygamy is illegal, that stoning and amputation will not be carried out as punishments, and that wearing a hijab is a personal choice. In fact, his party was the first to accept the gender-parity provision94 preceding the elections, placing women candidates on top of its electoral lists.95 Surely enough, 42 out of the 49 women who won were from Ennahda.96
Despite its announcements and programs, women activists and the liberals — now dubbed "secularists" to show their opposition to the Islamization of politics — are not convinced,97 accusing Ennahda of "double discourse," saying one thing to the liberals and the West, while their imams and local-level activists say another.98 To some extent, these fears are justified,99 not only because of controversial statements and anti-feminist activities, but also because of their behavior during the drafting of the constitution. Despite assurances from Ghannoushi, many party officials' statements reinforced the doubts of the opposition. Samir Dilou, Ennahda party member and the minister of human rights and transitional justice, was caught defending polygamy. What is worse, even high-level female Ennahda officials issued statements offensive to many women. For example, Souad Abderrahim, Ennahda delegate to the Constituent Assembly, criticized single mothers, describing them as a "disgrace to Tunisian society"100 who should not receive any care from the government, except in cases of rape. Some judicial decisions after the revolution were cited as evidence that rights were under a serious threat, such as when police charged a raped woman with indecency and the court sentenced her to six months in prison. The charges were dropped, after a huge uproar.101
The actions of Salafi groups like Hizb al-Tahrir and Ansar al Sharia did not make things easier. These groups, whose main objective is to establish an Islamic caliphate, carried out many activities that demonstrated their lack of respect for human rights. They attacked liquor stores, a theatre for advertising a movie called "No God, No Master,"102 and a TV station that broadcasted the film "Persepolis." They directed attacks on unveiled women103 and stormed a university that did not allow women with full-face veils to enroll in classes.104 They even removed the Tunisian flag from one university and raised their Salafi banner in its place. These attacks caused the director of Human Rights Watch in Tunisia to say that, although "we cannot speak of an obvious rollback since the legal reality is still the same,…acquired rights are being threatened by repeated attacks by Salafist groups on those they consider infidels or on behavior they deem contrary to Islamic morality."105 The head of the Human Rights Office, Dimiter Chalev, agreed: reporting "a shrinking of the freedom of movement and safety that woman used to enjoy, a shrinking of women's public space, due to threats and intimidation."106 Although the Salafis and Ennahda should not be put in the same category, the actions of the former reflected badly on the entire Islamic movement, especially with the ambiguous position of Ennahda, distancing itself from this group at times and licensing their NGOs at others.107
The various draft constitutions and the assassinations of two prominent opposition leaders, Fethi Belaid and Mohamed Brahimi,108 increased the doubts of the secularists, in general, and women's groups, in particular. From the beginning, Islamists wanted to incorporate the new constitution language that emphasized the "complementarity" of men and women, rather than full gender equality. They were successful in doing so under Article 28 in the first draft of the constitution,109 practically reducing women to second-class citizens.110
WOMEN RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
Women had to act to defend their rights. Some took it to extremes, as did FEMEN member Amina Tyler by posing topless on social media sites with a note that says, "My body belongs to me."111 But thousands of women chose other means, marching in protest, sometimes under the auspices of the ATFD and the AFTURD; refusing to dilute their protections and rights;112 and asking the government to turn its attention to more pressing issues like the economy, which had sparked the revolution to begin with.113 Some organizations, like the Association d'Egalite et Parité (Association of Equality and Parity), were established just a few months after the revolution to engage in discussion about equal opportunities for men and women and to lobby the government toward this end. Other associations were also formed to encourage women's participation in the election as voters and candidates, and as election observers. In the first election after the revolution, 46 percent of registered voters were women, but this percentage grew to more than 50 percent in the second parliamentary election, on October 24, 2014,114 showing a growing awareness among women of what is at stake and their role in affecting the political system.
Regardless of how Tunisian women chose to face the post-revolution challenges, their movement was successful in preventing the rollback of certain laws and in bringing about important achievements as well. On August 16, 2011, the minister of women, Lilia Laabidi, submitted Decree No. 103, lifting all specific reservations on CEDAW but keeping a general one that excuses Tunisia from applying any provision in the convention that violates Chapter One of the Tunisian constitution.115 Since the Tunisian government that followed did not send the withdrawal notification to the UN secretary-general in his role as depository of the convention, this decree had no legal effect. During that period, women's groups continued their intensive effort to defend CEDAW and to lift all reservations facing the Islamist campaign, which deliberately confused the term with SIDA (French for HIV), and gave misleading summaries about its provisions relating to marriage and family relations. In April 2014, women finally harvested the fruit of their hard labor when the United Nations confirmed receipt of the Tunisian notification to officially withdraw all of its specific reservations to the treaty.116
Perhaps the greatest victory for secularists, in general, and women's groups, in particular, was the ability to stop the Islamist attempt to weaken the human rights regime in the new Tunisian constitution, as evident in the various drafts that have surfaced since 2011. In the run-up to the vote, vigilant efforts were undertaken by local and international feminist NGOs to reach this end. For example, UN Women partnered with ATFD, as part of a project titled "Women's March for a Constitution Integrating Equality and Citizenship," to ensure quality and the targeted contributions of civil-society organizations during Tunisia's participatory constitution-drafting process. UN Women also supported the Centre for Research, Studies, Documentation and Information on Women (CREDIF) in organizing advocacy events that gathered parliamentary members, government policy makers and civil-society representatives to debate the integration of the principle of parity in the constitution.117 Thanks to these and other determined efforts by women NGOs, the new constitution that was finally approved in January 2014 is considered to be one of the "most advanced of all South and East Mediterranean countries in political transition, especially in terms of civil liberties,"118 retaining the spirit of the CPS and even addressing new demands that were not in the code. Thus, Article 46 considers the "acquired rights" of women as a minimum standard that the state cannot retreat from. It also provides for parity between the genders in elected assemblies and addresses the problem of discrimination and violence against women, where the state is obliged to act through public authorities by taking measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The language adopted in the constitution specifically in relation to key issues is gender-sensitive, emphasizing that the right in question is "a right for every citizen, male and female," including the right to stand for election for the position of president.
It is true that Tunisian women enjoyed rights even before many of their European counterparts thanks to the revolutionary insight of Habib Bourguiba and his 1956 CPS. However, these pro-women decrees and laws discussed under the banner of "state feminism," which were sponsored by consecutive Tunisian regimes since independence served the external and internal interests of the ruling elite. Externally, they were able to bolster the image of an open society to attract Western praise. Domestically, they managed not only to consolidate women's support but also to weaken the Islamic movement through the counterattacks of women's organizations, especially in the 1980s. This was done through taking family and marriage relations away from the strict and direct interpretation of sheiks, especially when the sharia was not cited as one of the primary sources of the CPS. But this status of women came at a price. Because these rights, specifically prior to the 1990s, were a product of a top-down state decree and not the result of an active feminist movement, they depended primarily on women's continuing support of the regime. Feminism was coopted into the state, especially when the major women's organizations answered to the regime and implemented its directives, supporting rather than challenging the government. The face of the women's cause was not a civil-society organization, but the first lady herself, a figure widely despised in the country. If any challenging female voice emerged, whether from the secularists or the Islamists, punishment was sure to follow.
However, just as state support of women's rights alienated and angered the Islamists, the commitment of the regime to women's rights wavered every time they wanted to appease the Islamists. This was true in the 1970s, when Bourguiba's regime tried to weaken leftist influence through strengthening the religious elements of society and towards the end of the 1980s, when Ben Ali's regime promised them no additional rights in the code and increased the "official piety" of the regime through ending gender mixing at official receptions, for example. Luckily for women, these phases were very limited; it was the Islamic movement that was regarded by Bourguiba's and Ben Ali's regimes as the dangerous opponent that should be controlled and stopped. In any case, the CPS survived the Islamic attacks and was even developed further in the 1990s, when women were granted more rights than ever before. Despite that, women rebelled in 2011 because, like their male counterparts, they too were affected by economic stagnation, and their freedom of expression and assembly as well as their right to political participation were equally violated. This is in addition to the various violations against women that have not yet been addressed, such as the inequality in inheritance and the weak penalties for domestic violence.
The post-revolution period brought women challenges they were accustomed to, like the rising influence of the Islamic movement, and new challenges, like their close relationship with the Ben Ali regime. This relationship tarnished the image of the major feminist organizations and their leaders, discrediting them and denying them any part in the decision-making process in post-revolution Tunisia. But Tunisian women fought back. One of the important findings of this study is that, while top-down reforms run the risk of coopting women's movements, it is also true that these reforms create a new climate that enables society to look at women from a totally different perspective. Thus, despite the cooptation and pacification of the feminist movement, women were able to make their voices heard in the 1980s against the Islamic threat and contribute to the emergence of myriad rights in the 1990s. They also rose to the challenge after the 2011 revolution, when they were forced to defend their rights again. Their activism and mobilization contributed not only to the governmental decision to lift all specific reservations from CEDAW and pass a new constitution that emphasizes gender equality, but also to the weakening of Ennahda and the rise of the secularist parties, especially Nidaa Tounis, which is led by an 87-year-old veteran politician from Ben Ali's regime, Beji Caid Essebsi, now the president of Tunisia.
Tunisia has been able, so far, to avoid the sort of civil war that has plagued Syria and the military takeover that has rocked Egypt, thanks not only to the weak Tunisian military, but also to the determination of the major actors in the country, including Ennahda and the secularist Nidaa Tounis, to resolve their disagreements through negotiations, compromise and concessions. Ennahda is learning from the experience of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Despite its victory in 2011, the party is trying to grow its roots in the political system, rather than clinging to power at all costs. Its leadership seems to understand that resigning from the government (2013) and granting certain concessions with respect to the constitution in order to satisfy all the major Tunisian political groups may ensure their representation in the Tunisian political system. However, their weak performance in the government and the negative image linked to Muslim militancy — despite Ennahda's moderate stand — took its toll,119 leading to the victory of the secularist Nidaa Tounis party, which won 85 out of 217 seats in the 2014 elections of the Constituent Assembly and thus the right to form a government.120 The campaign that Nidaa Tounis launched was based on its fierce opposition to Ennahda and the maintenance of the separation between religion and the state. However, sidelining Ennahda and disregarding its perspective, especially when it came in second in the polls with 69 seats in the Assembly, is highly unwise. It might lead either to internal instability and even war, as in Syria, or a fierce and quick return to authoritarian rule that coopts or oppresses this minority, as in the Egyptian case. It seems that Nidaa Tounis is aware of these risks. Despite its propaganda against the Islamists, soon after the election of its leader, Essebsi, as the new president of the country, a unity government of both Islamists and secularists took shape in February 2015 with overwhelming support from the parliament. The real challenge, however, remains: Can two parties that have fundamentally different programs and ideas find common ground and run the country while avoiding paralysis? And who will pay for this compromise? Will the securalists agree to turn a blind eye to women's rights to please the Islamists? Or will Ennahda distance itself from the Islamic radicals once and for all by insisting on a liberal interpretation of the sharia, especially with respect to women's rights? Since the fall of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime, Tunisian women today have a golden opportunity to stay politically active, remain diligent in preventing any backsliding and ensure that laws are implemented as intended. Most important, Tunisian women's organizations should protect their independence from the state and thus their credibility, while pursuing their own agenda — whether this reflects the grand design of the government or not.
In the meantime, the entire region is becoming more openly conservative and Islamized. But this does not have to be accompanied by a limitation on women's rights. The Quran, like any other holy book, can be interpreted to justify the principles of the Salafi hardliners or to reflect and reinforce women's rights, as Bourguiba exemplified. Women's organizations, Tunisian or otherwise, have to stay vigilant in the effort to protect their gains and push for the achievement of true gender equality. This might mean a change in strategy, where feminists become well-versed in Islamic law to counter the attacks of religious and conservative leaders who use religion to restrict women's rights and their freedom.
1 Many authors oppose this description, deeming it "inaccurate" and "simplistic." Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer who witnessed the overthrow of the shah of Iran in 1979, disagrees with this term because the overthrow of dictatorships is not in itself sufficient except if they were replaced by democracies. Some wonder whether the protestors dying in Syria, for example, do consider this period a true "spring." Others believe that this term oversimplifies the reality just because the uprisings happened in the same geographical area and that the majority protesting were Muslims. Shirin Ebadi, "Islamic Law and the Revolution against Women," in The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women's Rights, ed. Minky Worden (Seven Stories Press, 2012).
2 When his book was first published, it created a fierce debate in society and led the university in the end to stop his book from circulation because it was not compatible with Islamic principles. He died in isolation soon after the publication of his book. Many backed him, arguing that he was targeted since he threatened the old elite. According to Labidi, he became a symbol for those who question paternalistic political discourse and took it upon themselves to change it. See Lilia Labidi, "The Nature of Transnational Alliances in Women's Associations in the Maghreb: The Case of AFTURD and ATFD in Tunisia," Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 3, no. 1 (2007): 10.
3 Laurie A. Brand, Women, the State, and Political Liberalization (Columbia University Press, 1998), 203.
4 Neo-Destour Party emerged from the split at that time of the main nationalist party, the Destour Party. Richard H. Curtiss, "Women's Rights: An Affair of State for Tunisia," in Arab Women between Defiance and Restraint, ed. Suha Sabbagh (Olive Branch Press, 1996), 34.
5 Laurie A. Brand, Women, the State, and Political Liberalization, 202.
6 It is true that the code only applied to Muslim Tunisians, but practically speaking the code was applied to Tunisians, in general, simply because 98 percent of the population were Muslims. The Jews followed their own code, and Christians' personal status was regulated by French law. See "Documents: The Tunisian Code of Personal Status," Middle East Journal 11, no. 3, (Summer 1957): 310.
7 Richard H. Curtiss, "Women's Rights: An Affair of State for Tunisia," 33-35.
8 Augustin Jomier, "Secularism and State Feminism: Tunisia's Smoke and Mirrors," Books and Ideas, November 2011, http://www.booksandideas.net/Secularism-and-State-Feminism.html.
9 " Women Emancipation by Habib Bourguiba," Mediterranean Memory, http://www.medmem.eu/en/notice/INA00718. See also Maaike Voorheove, "Tunisia: Protecting Ben Ali's Feminist Legacy," Think Africa Press 31 (January 2013), http://thinkafricapress.com/tunisia/future-state-feminism.
10 "Documents: The Tunisian Code of Personal Status," Middle East Journal 11, no. 3, (Summer 1957): 310.
11 Lamia Ben Youssef Zayzafoun, The Product of the Muslim Woman: Negotiating Text, History and Ideology (Lexington Books, 2005), 103.
12 An example of the regime's encouragement of family planning programs was granting a "contraception prize," each year since 1970, to the governorate that had converted the largest number of women to contraceptive use.
13 "Women Emancipation by Habib Bourguiba."
14 See Lilia Labidi, "The Nature of Transnational Alliances in Women's Associations in the Maghreb: The Case of AFTURD and ATFD in Tunisia," 12.
15 Ibid, 11.
16 Sarah E. Gilman, "Feminist Organizing in Tunisia," From Patriarchy to Empowerment, ed. Valentine Moghadam (Syracuse University Press, 2007), 98.
17 In the last decade of his rule, Bourguiba became more oppressive, erratic and vicious with his political opponents, rounding them up in prisons and ordering their executions soon afterwards. By 1987, it was clear even for his supporters that his rule had to end one way or another. That same year, a group of doctors issued a report declaring the president incapable of carrying out his duties; for this reason, it is sometimes nicknamed "the medical revolution."
18 Larbi Sadiki, "Ben Ali's Tunisia: Democracy by Non-Democratic Means," British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 29, no. 1 (May 2002): 60.
19 RCD is short for Rassemblement Constitutionel Democratique.
20 Christopher Alexander, "Authoritarianism and Civil Society in Tunisia: Back from the Democratic Brink," Middle East Research and Information Project 27 (1997), http://www.merip.org/mer/mer205/authoritarianism-civil-society-tunisia.
21 Emma C. Murphy, "Women in Tunisia: Between State Feminism and Economic Reform," 209-213.
23 Although the Personal Status Code did oblige the husband to pay maintenance to his wife upon divorce, this was not practiced in many cases. After the passage of these laws, divorced women were able to stay in the marital home after divorce even if it was owned by the husband, for example.
24 See Nikkie R. Keddie, Women in the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2008), 141-142.
25 Kristine Goulding, "Tunisia: Arab Spring, Islamist Summer," Open Democracy.net October 25, 2011, https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/kristine-goulding/tunisia-arab-sprin….
26 See Samar El-Masri, "Challenges Facing CEDAW in the Middle East and North Africa," International Journal of Human Rights 16, no. 7 (October 2012): 931-946.
28 Daniel Byman, Keeping the Peace (John Hopkins University, 2002), 84.
29 Neal G. Jesse and Kristen P. Williams, Ethnic Conflict: A Systematic Approach to Cases of Conflict (CQ Press, 2010).
30 Ian Lustick, Arabs in the Jewish State (University of Texas, 1980).
31 Kathleen M. Fallon, Democracy and the Rise of Women's Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa (The John Hopkins University Press, 2008).
33 Mounira M. Charrad, "Tunisia at the Forefront of the Arab World," in Women in the Middle East and North Africa, eds. Fatima Sadiqi and Moha Ennaji (Routledge, 2011), 108.
35 See Augustin Jomier, "Secularism and State Feminism: Tunisia's Smoke and Mirrors."
36 Laurie A. Brand, Women, the State, and Political Liberalization, 213.
37 Since then, any female who wished to be a candidate on the neo-Destour lists in local and national elections had to pass through this organization. For more information, see Laurie A. Brand, Women, The State, and Political Liberalization, 202.
38 Emma C. Murphy, "Women in Tunisia: Between State Feminism and Economic Reform," in Women and Globalization in the Arab Middle East: Gender, Economy and Society, eds. Eleanor Abdella Doumato and Marsha Pripstein Posusney (Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc., 2003), 172-6.
39 Emma C. Murphy, "Women in Tunisia: between State Feminism and Economic Reform," 170.
40 Ibid., 178.
41 Trabelsi was the one who would ultimately represent Tunisian women abroad receiving awards not only from Tunisian ministries for her exceptional patriotism, but also from The World of the Woman, and recognized by the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs for her activities to promote social welfare and women's rights and for her role in empowering women in economic development.
42 Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Madmen at the Helm (Ithaca Press, 2012), 18.
43 Morally, Trebelsi was attacked because of her intimate relationship with Ben Ali before his divorce and delivering her first born from him out of wedlock. She was an uneducated hairdresser from a humble family of ten brothers and sisters, with a passion for black magic and witchcraft that she used to control her husband. See Angelique Chrisafis, "The Arab World's First Ladies of Oppression," Guardian, February 28, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/28/arab-first-ladies-of-oppre….
44 Lin Nouehed and Alex Warren, The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era (Yale University Press, 2012), 29.
45 Angelique Chrisafis, "Arab Spring Led to the Fall of the First Wives' Club," Mail and Guardian, March 2012, http://mg.co.za/article/2012-03-09-arab-spring-led-to-the-fall-of-first….
47 Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, Madmen at the Helm, 18-21.
48 Andrea Khalil, Crowds and Politics in North Africa: Tunisia, Algeria and Libya (Routledge, 2014), 53.
49 Louisa Dris-Ait-Hamadouche, "Women in the Maghreb," in North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation, ed. Yahia H Zoubr and Haizam Amirah-emandez (Routledge, 2008), 219.
50 Emma C. Murphy, "Women in Tunisia," 170.
51 Brand, Women, the State and Political Liberalization (Columbia University Press, 1998).
53 Brand, 180.
54 That liberal wing of the party wished to see more reform and respect for political pluralism and human rights, but could not gain enough support, so their leader, Mestiri, sought to reform in a liberal direction and was expelled from party in 1974 after his failure to do so. As a result, the liberals organized in the Mouvement des Democrates Socialistes (MDS) with a demand of respecting human rights and pol pluralism
55 Brand, Women, the State and Political Liberalization, 206.
56 Mahmoud Musa and Yana Korobko, The Shifting Balance of Power (Xlibris LLC, 2014), 135.
57 Amy Aisen Kallander, Women. Gender and the Palace Households in Ottoman Tunisia (University of Texas press, 2013), 172.
58 Louisa Dris-Ait-Hamadouche, "Women in the Maghreb," in North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation, ed. Yahia H Zoubr and Haizam Amirah-emandez (Routledge, 2008), 219.
59 Brand, 179.
60 During the month of Ramadan, fasting is obligatory for all practicing Muslims.
61 David Lamb and John Daniszewski, "Habib Bourguiba: Leader Shaped Tunisia," Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2000, http://articles.latimes.com/2000/apr/07/local/me-17142.
62 Larbi Sadiki, "Tunisia: Women's Rights and the New Constitution," Al Jazeera, September 21, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/09/2012918102423227362.ht….
63 Nikkie R. Keddie, Women in the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2008), 141.
64 For more, information see Clement Henry Moore, Tunisia since Independence (University of California Press, 1965), 50-58.
65 "Documents," Middle East Journal, 310.
66 Lamia Ben Youssef Zayzafoon, The Production of the Muslim Women: Negotiating Text, History and Ideology, 103.
67 Jomier, "Secularism and State Feminism: Tunisia's Smoke and Mirrors."
68 Katerina Dalacoura, Islam, Liberalism and Human Rights, 3rd ed. (IB Tauris, 2007), 161.
69 Jocelyne Cesari, The Awakening of Muslim Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2014), 91.
70 Augestin Jomier, "Secularism and State Feminism."
71 In fact, Bourguiba cut all diplomatic relations with Iran after it supported the Tunisian Islamic Movement in an attempt to overthrow him. See "Al-Hijab yaood bi kuwwa ila tunis" (the veil comes back strongly to Tunisia," Alhiwar net, December 3, 2010, http://www.alhiwar.net/ShowNews.php?Tnd=5030#.VEflD0vu54M.
72 Brand, 192.
73 See Alaya Allani, "The Islamists in Tunisia between Confrontation and Participation," Journal of North African Studies 14, no. 2 (June 2009): 263.
74 Ibid, 195.
75 Although the party was never allowed to run officially for elections, its independent candidates managed to win over 14 percent of the national vote, and 30 percent in some urban centers, including Tunis, the capital, emerging as the largest opposition force to the regime.
76 Larbi Sadiki, "Political Liberalization in Tunisia," Democratization 9, no. 4 (Winter 2002): 125.
77 Azzam Tamimi, "Rashid al-Ghannushi," in The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics, eds. John Esposito and Emad El-din Shahin (Oxford University Press, 2013), 218.
78 Keddie, Women in the Middle East, 141-142.
79 Mourina M. Charrad, "Tunisia at the Forefront of the Arab world: Waves of Gender Legislation," Washington and Lee Law Review 64, no. 4 (2007), http://scholarlycommons.law.wlu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1216&co….
81 Jasmine is Tunisia's national flower.
82 Human Rights Watch World Report 2013, http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013.
83 Seth G. Jones, "The Mirage of the Arab Spring: Deal with the Region You Have, Not the Region You Want," Foreign Affairs (January/February 2013), http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138478/seth-g-jones/the-mirage-o….
84 Andrea Khalil, "Tunisia's Women: Partners in Revolution," Journal of North African Studies 19, no. 2. (2014): 186-199.
85 Andrea Khalil, Crowds and Politics in North Africa, 53.
86 30,000 Islamists were in prison at that time. Andrea Khalil, "Tunisia's Women: Partners in Revolution," 186-199.
87 Mounira M Charrad, "Family Law Reforms in the Arab World: Tunisia and Morocco," United Nations, 2012, http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/docs/egm12/PAPER-CHARRAD.pdf.
88 Nikkie R. Keddie, Women in the Middle East, 141-142.
89 Laurie Brand, Rym Kaki and Joshua Stacher, "First Ladies as Focal Points for Discontent," Foreign Policy (February 16, 2011), http://mideastafrica.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/16/first_ladies_as_focal_points_for_discontent. See also Ibtissam Bouachrine, Women and Islam: Myths, Apologies and the Limits of Feminist Critique (Lexington Books, 2014), 97.
90 Kristine Goulding, "Tunisia: Arab Spring, Islamist Summer." Also see Andrea Khalil, "Tunisia's Women: Partners in Revolution," 186-199.
91 An NGO that provides training and microloans for women and young people in poor areas.
92 "Countries at the Crossroads: Tunisia," Freedom House, 2012, http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/countries-crossroads/2012/tunisia.
93 On April 11, 2011, the Tunisian transitional government passed a law that established full parity and compulsory alternation of male and female candidates on all lists for the October 23 election of the Constituent Assembly that will draft the new constitution.
94 Minky Worden, "Revolutions and Rights," in The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women's Rights, ed. Minky Worden (Seven Stories Press, 2012); Carol Giacomo, "Women Fight to Define the Arab Spring," New York Times November 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/opinion/sunday/women-fight-to-define-…?.
96 Kristine Goulding, "Tunisia: Arab Spring, Islamist Summer."
98 Alami, "Women Face Fight to Keep their Rights in Tunisia," New York Times February 20, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/world/middleeast/women-face-fight-to-….
99 "Countries at the Crossroads: Tunisia."
100 Aida Alami, "Women Face Fight to Keep Their Rights in Tunisia."
101 The movie was directed by a Nadia El-Fani, an outspoken French-Tunisian critic of political Islam.
102 Maalke Voorhoeve, "Legacy of an Authoritarian Regime," Consultancy Africa Intelligence 2013, http://www.consultancyafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=arti….
103 "Transforming Tunisia" International Alert Organization, 2013, http://www.international-alert.org/sites/default/files/publications/Tun….
104 Alami, "Women Face Fight to Keep their Rights in Tunisia."
105 "Achieving Equality for Women in Tunisia," United Nations Human Rights 23 (August 2013), http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/EqualityInTunisia.aspx.
106 "Countries at the Crossroads: Tunisia."
107 Carlotta Gall, "Second Opposition Leader Assassinated in Tunisia," New York Times, July 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/26/world/middleeast/second-opposition-le….
108 Carol Giacomo, "Women Fight to Define the Arab Spring," New York Times, November 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/opinion/sunday/women-fight-to-define-…?.
109 Monica Villa, "The Word on Women — Has the Arab Spring Been a Disaster for Women?" Trust Law, November 12, 2012, http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/blogs/the-word-on-women/has-the-arab-spri….
110 It is a feminist protest group founded in Ukraine in 2008, whose members often protest naked in support of women rights.
111 Isobel Coleman, "Are the Mideast Revolutions Bad for Women Rights," Washington Post, February 20, 2011, in The New Arab Revolt, ed. Council on Foreign Relation (Council on Foreign Relation, 2011); and Carol Giacomo, "Women Fight to Define the Arab Spring."
112 Tarek Amara, "Thousands Rally in Tunisia for Women rights," Swissinfor.ch, August 14, 2012, http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Thousands_rally_in_Tunis….
113 Louis Bonhoure, "Low Youth, High Female Voter Turnout," Tunisialive, October 30, 2014, http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/10/30/low-youth-high-female-voter-turn….
114 "Tunisia: Government Lifts Restrictions on Women's Rights Treaty," Human Rights Watch, September 7, 2011, http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/09/06/tunisia-government-lifts-restriction….
115 "Tunisia: Landmark Action of Woman's Rights," Human Rights Watch, May 2014, http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/30/tunisia-landmark-action-women-s-righ….
116 "Tunisia's New Constitution: A Breakthrough for Women's Rights" UN Women, February, 11, 2014, http://www.unwomen.org/lo/news/stories/2014/2/tunisias-new-constitution.
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118 Barrister Harun ur Rashid, "Why Did Islamic Party Lose Election in Tunisia," Daily Star, November 17, 2014, http://www.thedailystar.net/why-did-islamic-party-lose-election-in-tuni….
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