Rabat - Invited to appear on France 2 Thursday night, former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, debated the issue of the Hijab with Attika Trabelsi, entrepreneur and activist at the Lallab Association.
Rabat – Invited to appear on France 2 Thursday night, former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, debated the issue of the Hijab with Attika Trabelsi, entrepreneur and activist at the Lallab Association.
Attika Trabelsi, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, criticized the politician over his remarks on veiled women. Last August, Manuel Valls sparked controversy with his statement regarding one of the symbols of the Republic: “Marianne, a symbol of the Republic, has her breast bare because she feeds the people; she doesn’t wear the veil because she’s free. This is what the Republic stands for!”
Other comments put to question, were those the ex-Prime Minister voiced on April 4, 2016. “What this veil represents for women, is not a fashion trend, no, it is not a color one wears, no: it is an enslavement of women… We must distinguish between what is a veil, a scarf worn by elderly women, and the requisition of a political sign that basically confronts the French society.”
Attira Trabelsi explained feeling “humiliated” by this “kind of speech,” arguing, “You are legitimizing speeches that cause violence against me.” Continuing, Trabelsi cites other examples of feeling marginalize, “In front of a bank, I am told that I cannot come in.
In interviews, I am asked repeatedly what I aspire to with this veil,” she reported. “Experiences like mine are multiplying,” she said. She went on, describing instances when women from her associations were asked to leave an amphitheater, or were discouraged from becoming a doctor or journalist. Travelsi concluded her arguments saying, “Dreams are broken, French talent is wasted.”
In reply to Trabelsi’s statements Manuel Valls offered the following; “You made a choice, I respect that, but what is this idea that the hair, the face, the body of a woman is indecent? I am part of a generation where women seek to free themselves.”
Valls went on to remind Trabelsi how fortunate she is to be in a country where dialogue is possible saying, “… you know, in other countries, like Tunisia and Iran, women who have been forced to wear the veil fight precisely to remove it,” before adding, “We have an incredible chance to be able to dialogue in our country.”
This is the quote that has inspired strong reactions from Tunisians, in Tunisia and elsewhere in the world and an understandable rebuke from Trabelsi. “I find it inappropriate on this stage [to talk about what happens abroad], since the subject today is my story and those of French women that I know (…) and who choose freely.”
The idea that the veil is imposed on women in Tunisia as well as the comparison between Tunisia and Iran has made many Tunisian Internet users react on social media with predictable indignation.