The unlikely story of a feminist Tunisian teenager who posted a topless picture of herself and was threatened with death by stoning was a story that captured the imagination of the world's media.
Since her story hit the headlines, she has disappeared from view. Italian journalist Federica Tourn believes she was the last person to interview Amina Tyler before she disappeared.
At that point, she was thinking of leaving the country, Tourn said. But she agreed that she would pose for a final set of photographs, leaning against a wall where she had written, in Arabic, “A woman’s body is not a sin.”
Amina Tyler, taken by Italian photojournalist Cristina Mastrandrea
So where is Amina? Some say she is in a psychiatric hospital, and many have expressed fears for her life.
But attorney Bochra Bel Haj Hmida, who specialises in women's rights, swears the two have spoken on the telephone, and said Amina is at home and is well.
An international “Free Amina” movement began on April 4. On the Femen website, photos of female (and male) supporters are growing steadily.
In the meantime, another Tunisian woman decided to take up the mantle, also exposing herself to the risks involved in showing her bare breasts, and Femen groups have sprung up in other Arab countries, from Morocco to Algeria.
Amina has become – perhaps unwillingly – the symbol of Arab women’s fight against religious obscurantism.
Posting a photo topless is the membership criteria for Femen, she said. "I saw the Femen photos online in July.
"At the beginning I did not even know what they were, but I really liked what they were doing to promote women’s freedom.”
“I contacted the German and Ukrainian group and I asked what I needed to do to join them. They responded that I should start with a photo and a small message in English and Arabic on Facebook. I posted it, and they immediately shared it.”
Women in Tunisia are ready for change, she said. "That women have reached the height of self-determination: we no longer obey any authority, neither family nor religious. We know what we want and we make our own decisions."
Immediately after the publication of the first photo, there was a storm of reaction from radical Islamists.
The imam and the fundamentalist preacher Adel Almi publicly condemned her, invoking the punishment of stoning “so that this contagion does not spread among other women.”
“There are other girls who are preparing to come out in the open. In Tunisia we are ready to have a Femen group," Amina said.
“We are preparing more radical acts. I will soon participate in a street protest, here in Tunis, with other Femen members who will come from Germany or France. It will be an extremely fast thing, and we will try to run away as soon as it is over.
"The police in Tunisia do not act like the police in Europe. If they catch me they may beat or rape me," she claimed.
She said she is not scared. “No, nothing they could do would be worse than what already happens here to women, the way women are forced to live every day.
"Ever since we are small they tell us to be calm, to behave well, to dress a certain way, everything to find a husband. We must also study to be able to marry, because young guys today want a woman who works.”
Many in Tunisia have claimed she is misrepresenting the country. Still more believe her actions are bringing shame to the nation.
She was the target of vicious smears in the media, Amina said. “They wrote all kinds of things about me: that I work for Mossad, that I am a whore. I received death threats, but also encouragement to continue, and compliments for my courage
“My mother and sister are practicing Muslims who wear the veil. It’s true, they do not approve. But they are worried for me.”
This article is a translation of a piece provided to HuffPost UK by Federica Tourn
FEMEN PROTEST PHOTOS (WARNING: NSFW)
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