Agitators, rebels or quite simply pugnacious … One year after the legislative elections of October 2019 in Tunisia, three female personalities stand out in Parliament, despite their ideological poles. The social democrat Samia Abbou, the Islamo-conservative Yamina Zoghlami and the nostalgic for the former regime Abir Moussi all the same share one thing in common: the cost of their political commitment, much more substantial than that paid by their male counterparts, while they often remain judged for their genre before their ideas.
Samia Abbou, anti-corruption muse
“My detractors say I bark because I speak loudly. But when a man does the same, it doesn’t shock anyone ”, observes Samia Abbou, 54 years old. With short hair and keen eyes, the member of the Democratic Current (center left) is one of the veterans of the Tunisian parliament. Elected since 2011, she marked public opinion with her rants during the 2014-2019 legislature. At the time, Samia Abbou denounced the alliance of the former regime with the Islamo-conservatives of the Ennahda party who reinvested in the structures of the state. She sets out to display corruption files that compromise the executive. If his parliamentary group saw its seats increase from 3 to 22 in the last legislative elections, it is in part thanks to its enthusiasm.
Yet Samia Abbou’s political commitment is the result of a stroke of fate. In 2005, her husband, Mohamed Abbou, lawyer and human rights activist, wrote an article in which he compared dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to Ariel Sharon, then Israeli prime minister and warlord in the Israeli-Arab conflicts. He will spend two years and three months in prison. This is the click. She joined her husband’s party, joined opposition organizations and went to meet the families of prisoners of conscience. She resumed her studies and became a lawyer at the age of 45.
Ten years after the revolution, his determination is shrouded in bitterness. “The reestablishment of the authoritarian state in its police or economic form, not to mention the entry into force of the populists in the Assembly, that disgusts me”, she blurted out. She does not hide her incomprehension towards the Tunisians who, according to her, vote against their interests. And to women who, even they, sometimes criticize her for who she is and not for the ideas she defends.
Samia Abbou does not claim to be “Feminist”, preferring the defense of economic and social rights, but positions itself for equality between men and women in inheritance. On this point, she stands out from her two colleagues: Abir Moussi declares herself in favor in a personal capacity but not in a legislative capacity, while Yamina Zoghlami aligns herself with her party, which calls for “The opening of a debate” but doesn’t seem in a rush to get down to it.
Yamina Zoghlami, ambiguous showcase of Ennahda
Elected since the first term, Yamina Zoghlami, 50, admits disappointment with the results of the legislative elections of 2019, which led to “A dispersed Parliament, without a majority able to govern nor strong opposition”. Yet she belongs to the Islamo-conservative Ennahda party, which forms the main parliamentary bloc in the Assembly. Having campaigned, like Samia Abbou, against the dictatorship of Ben Ali, his frustration is great at having today to share the hemicycle with the oppressors of yesterday, embodied by Abir Moussi, former deputy secretary general of the Democratic Constitutional Assembly (RCD).
Alone in her family to have worn the veil at the age of 15, expelled from high school for this choice, she joined the Movement of the Islamic tendency, ancestor of Ennahda, by associating with clandestine cells, in particular in university. Today it is a showcase for the Islamist party. Yamina Zoghlami is omnipresent in the media sphere to defend Ennahda’s positions, but also sometimes to express ideas that go against the grain of a party known for its conservative stance.
In 2018, she spoke out in the hemicycle in favor of sex education for children. “Let’s stop talking about” halal “and” haram ” [ce qui est permis ou interdit par l’islam] and initiate the child to familiarize himself with his body “, she then declares. Already in 2013, during the debates on gender parity, Yamina Zoghlami warned radical preachers speaking in public to ” to shut up ” : “We will never allow a step back fifty and a hundred years in terms of women’s rights. We have very strong women, ready to campaign to defend our rights. “
The MP, who is very active in her constituency, has won the loyalty of her voters thanks to her work in the popular districts of Tunis, which she often broadcasts live on her Facebook page. Her determination did not prevent her from encountering difficulties on certain issues, such as that concerning the recognition and compensation of the martyrs and wounded of the revolution, for which she has been in charge since 2011. She has not succeeded in making progress things with the various rulers and even within his party.
Ready to support in public the president of the Assembly and leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, she is more critical internally and believes that he should not modify the statutes of the party to remain at its head during the next congress, announced for early 2021.
Abir Moussi, slayer of the Islamists
His live videos of Parliament have gone viral. The MP for the Free Destourien Party (PDL) has become the slayer of the Islamists of Ennahda. Good speaker and follower of theatricality, Abir Moussi, 45, multiplies the speeches, blocks the work of the Assembly and can organize a sit-in with other parliamentarians, for days on end, to mark his opposition to Rached’s party Ghannouchi.
After the 2011 uprising, which she refuses to call a “revolution” – a denial characteristic of those nostalgic for the old regime – Abir Moussi initially struggled to return to politics. But it has been two years since she has gained popularity in the Assembly, where her lectern is adorned with a photo of former leader Habib Bourguiba, a Destourian legacy that many dispute. The perseverance of the one who takes pride in “Never to have returned [sa] jacket ‘ seduced the disappointed with the revolution and the anti-Islamists.
His brilliance is double-edged. Some accuse him of launching incessant polemics to cover up a lack of vision and political program. Her refusal to negotiate caused her prejudices in Parliament, where she failed to forge alliances. Despite her controversial stance, she recently received signs of solidarity from all political stripes after a violent chauvinist attack by populist deputy Seifeddine Makhlouf of the Coalition for Dignity.