Oriental Hall, etc.

Where are you, men of honor? Tunisian human rights activist Radhia Nasraouiproudly recalls a woman shouting these words in front of the government hall in Sidi Bouzid, the first flashpoint of protests that eventually brought down Tunisian ruler Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

The woman’s brave rebuke, for Nasraoui, epitomizes the strength of Tunisian women and all that they have done for their country. Co-founder and president of the Association for the Fight against Torture in Tunisia, Nasraoui was speaking of the ups and downs of the women’s rights movement since the fall of the Ben Ali regime at a conference held at the American University in Cairo. Despite apprehension over the electoral victory of the Islamist Al-Nahda movement, she explained that women have successfully pushed back against new attempts to legislate gender inequality. Calls for polygamy have come to an end, and Al-Nahda has declared that wearing the hijab is a personal matter not a religious obligation. “The progressive movements and feminist movements are now pushing for complete equality between men and women and the constitutionalizing of women’s rights,” Nasraoui told the conference hosted by AUC’s John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement. “We stand for principles of the revolution—freedom, social justice, equality, democracy, and dignity. It is a popular stand and does not include any religious references and doesn’t call for applying sharia.” Nevertheless, Nasraoui said, Tunisian women remain on their guard.