Tunisian feminist NGO denounces Saied's wife's 'twisted' women's day speech

Tunisian feminist NGO denounces Saied's wife's 'twisted' women's day speech
The growing public presence of Saied’s family conjures a sense of deja-vu of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia's former dictator.
3 min read
16 August, 2022
"The appearance of Kais Saied's wife is a direct interference in the country's politics," said Tunisia's Democratic Women's Association. [Getty]

The speech of Tunisia's first lady on the country's women's day continues to trigger controversy amid fears of Saied's family increasing interference in the political scene.

"The appearance of Kais Saied's wife is a direct interference in the country's politics," Tunisia's Democratic Women's Association (ATFD), one of the largest feminist NGOs in Tunisia, said on Monday.

Over the weekend, Ishraf Chebil, the wife of Kais Saied and a former jurist, delivered a speech advocating her husband's controversial constitution. She claimed that Tunisia's new constitution preserves women's rights and protects their gains.

On July 25. Tunisia's electoral commission announced the acceptance of Saied's draft after a poorly attended referendum due to a widespread boycott. 


Tunisia's Democratic Women's Association described Chebil's speech as "twisted" on a constitution that denied Tunisian women equality.

"The July 25 constitution did not achieve any gain for women, but rather threatens and undermines their gains, especially by eliminating the principle of parity," Naila El-Zoghlami, head of ATFD, told the private radio station Shams FM Monday.

Tunisia's new constitution says the state will preserve parity between the genders "with justice" - a religious term that enforces the unequal system of inheritance in Tunisia, explained ATFD in its report on the constitution.

In 2020, Kais Saied voiced clear opposition to equality between genders in inheritance.

Moreover, under the heading of achieving the purposes of Islam, including self-preservation, the new constitution states that Tunisian women may lose their right to abortion in safe conditions currently stipulated by law.

El-Zoghlami has also said that Saied's wife has no significant activities supporting women's rights in the country to claim to be a women's rights defender on Tunisian national day for women.

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After winning the 2019 elections, Kais Saied said that his wife would not bear the title of "the first lady" because "all Tunisian women are first."

However, Chebil's increasing public and official appearances hint that Saied is backtracking, once again, on another promise.

Some Tunisian analysts claim that Saied's wife has appointed her friend Leila Jefal as Tunisia's minister of the judiciary in blatant interference in the country's politics.

Also, Saied's brother Naoufal Saied has dedicated his Facebook page to cheering and advocating his brother's controversial decisions.

The growing public presence of Saied's family conjures a deja-vu of the rule of Zain Al Abidin Ben Ali, Tunisia's former dictator.

During Ben Ali's 24-year-long rule, the families of Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi controlled between 30% and 40% of the Tunisian economy.

During the Arab spring, the general public in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria revolted against their presidential rulers which were akin to monarchy-like dynastic systems and prominent positions are passed among relatives. 

A decade later, Arab people continue to fight against political nepotism.