Femen activists dragged off stage at Islam event

Two topless activists from the self-proclaimed "sextremist" group Femen were violently dragged away after storming the stage at a conference on women and Islam near Paris.

Femen activists dragged off stage at Islam event
A Femen activist storms the stage while two Imam's were speaking, before being violently dragged away. Photo: Inna Shevchenko/Femen

The chaos began when the two topless women race on to the stage as two Imams were giving a talk on Saturday evening at the conference in Pontoise near Paris.

The women, who were of Algerian and Tunisian origin, had anti-Muslim slogans on their chest that read: “No one will submit me, I am my own prophet”. They began shouting the same words to the audience.

While the two Imams were clearly taken aback and stood back from the women, a group of around 15 men, including security guards, ran onto the stage to bring an abrupt and violent end to the protest act.

Images show the two women disappearing under a sea of bodies, with some of the men appearing to launch kicks and slaps at the pair. The melee continued behind a screen out of sight of the cameras.

The site Buzzfeed France confirmed that one of the women had been punched several times in the aftermath of the incident.

Police quickly intervened to lead the two women away.

While the organisers of the conference have announced their intention to file charges, the head of Femen Inna Shevchenko has defended the protest.

“The two Imams were in the process of discussing whether or not you should beat your wife,” said Shevchenko, explaining the reason the two women chose to act then.

She said there were cries of “dirty whores and kill them,” as the men stormed the stage. Shevchenko, who was at the event later, tweeted: “Femmophobia is illegal, sexism is racism and modern slavery is a crime”.

The conference itself was controversial, with a petition to prevent it gaining around 6,000 signatures.

The petition denounced the presence of radical speakers including Nader Abou Anas, who has been accused of trying to legitimise rape within marriage.

Femen's provocative protests have prompted a violent response in the past notably when they disrupted an anti-gay marriage protest in Paris.

The video below shows how they were attacked by protesters, many of whom came from hardline Catholic groups and far-right organisations.

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France’s Interior Minister defends ‘precious’ right of women to go topless

France's interior minister on Tuesday defended the right of women to sunbathe topless on beaches, after a police warning for a group who stripped off on the southern coast sparked a social media outcry.

France's Interior Minister defends 'precious' right of women to go topless
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Photo: AFP

French gendarmes patrolling a beach in Mediterranean seaside town Sainte-Marie-la-Mer last week asked a group of topless sunbathers to cover up in response to a complaint from a family, the local gendarmerie said in a statement on Facebook.

It acknowledged their actions had been “clumsy” but said the officers aimed wanted only to calm the situation, insisting there had been no official order to ban topless sunbathing in the town.

The mairie of Sainte-Marie-la-Mer also issued a statement clarifying that there is nothing to prevent topless sunbathing on its beaches, adding that it was “very attached to the republican principles of liberty”.

READ ALSO What are the rules around going topless or nude in France?


But the case prompted an avalanche of criticsm on social media, with #seinsnus (topless) trending on Twitter in France.

“Is Sainte-Marie-la-Mer now Saudi Arabia?” wondered one user, while others slammed a creeping “prudishness” in France.

“It was wrong that the women were warned about their clothing,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

“Freedom is something precious. And it is normal that officials can admit their mistakes.”


“You will always see me in uniform,” the spokeswoman of the French gendarmerie Maddy Scheurer wrote on Twitter, adding a smiling emoji.

“But topless sunbathing is allowed on the beach at Sainte-Marie-la-Mer. It was clumsiness by two gendarmes who had the best intentions.”

Topless sunbathing in France is legally not considered to be sexual exhibitionism although it can be halted by local directives outlawing certain styles of dress.

But far from everyone in France takes their tops off on the beach these days and topless sunbathing has become less popular in recent years.

Surveys show that younger women are increasingly concerned about sexual harassment and body shaming on the beach.

Less than 20 percent of French women aged under 50 now sunbathe topless, compared with 28 percent 10 years ago and 43 percent in 1984, according to a recent survey by pollster Ifop of over 5,000 Europeans including 1,000 French.

This makes the French less willing to bathe topless than some other Europeans, with almost half of Spanish women saying they bathe topless and 34 percent of Germans.