Young Tunisian woman who scandalized Muslim hardliners by baring breasts fears for her life

TUNIS, Tunisia — A 19-year-old Tunisian who bared her breasts and taunted Muslim hard-liners said this weekend that she now fears for her life and wants to take refuge abroad.

The woman known only as Amina appeared in photos on Facebook last month with the words “My body belongs to me” scrawled on her bare chest, a particularly bold act in a Muslim country led by a moderate Islamist party, Ennahda.

Amina’s act was inspired by the Ukraine-based group Femen, which stages bare-breasted protests for women’s and gay rights. The group held an International Topless Jihad day last Thursday in support of Muslim women, including Amina.

Amina went into hiding after reportedly receiving death threats, prompting wild rumors over her whereabouts, including that she had been interned in a psychiatric hospital. But she reappeared in an interview broadcast Saturday with the French cable TV station Canal Plus in a village hours from the Tunisian capital where she’s been hiding.

She told Canal Plus that she “must leave Tunisia.”

“I’m afraid for my life and the lives of my family,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think it possible to return to school in Tunisia and wants to study journalism abroad.

Amina made an earlier TV appearance with a private Tunisian channel, in mid-March, her face blurred. She insisted her action had not aimed to provoke. “We Femen, we have the courage to cry out our demands to liberate women,” she said at the time.

Amina told Canal Plus that though she fears for her life in her homeland, she will keep her Femen principles “until I’m 80.”