Jeffrey Tayler in Quillette:
Editor’s note: As we enter 2018, brave women are protesting Islamic modesty culture and laws in Iran. Jeffrey Tayler has documented women’s protests against modesty culture in Europe for years. What follows is an interview conducted by Tayler with Femen’s leader, Inna Shevchenko, in 2017.
A female activist has just sawed down a giant Christian cross on the central square of the capital city of Ukraine, in protest against the prison sentence meted out to Pussy Riot band members for the “punk prayer” they had performed in a Moscow cathedral earlier that year. What fate awaits her when she flees, personally threatened by her country’s president for her audacious deed, to France, the self-proclaimed “homeland of human rights?” Upon her arrival in Paris, do orchestras greet her with rousing renditions of La Marseillaise? Do accolades of support pour in from the French media? Does she settle, finally, into secure environs, certain, for the first time in her young but politically active life, that she can pursue unhindered her feminist struggle for human rights and the propagation of atheism? And, in the country that enshrines laïcité (secularism) in Article 1 of its constitution, does she find her staunchly godless views lauded?
Quite the contrary! The now twenty-seven-year-old Inna Shevchenko, the leader of the international topless protest movement Femen, had, in August 2012, barely taken up residence in the attic of France’s historic Théâtre du Lavoir (which would become Femen’s headquarters), when she found herself and her activists under threat.