Dress codes and personal freedom have always been a source of conflict in Tunisia. Although Tunisia has been a liberated country since the beginning of time, both of the presidents who ran the country before the revolution exerciced their authority over the conservative and religious Muslims.
They have restricted women from wearing Hijab or Niqab in public and men to grow their beard. To maintain this policy, they have used a number of mechanisms among them cops. It was very common that they arrest citizens who violates this law and oblige women to take off their head cover as well as men to shave their beards biding them against those practices. However, the situation in the south was positively different. It was a conservative community that cops permitted such practices oftentimes because the dress code went hand in hand with their customs.
Generally, women with a head cover or men with a beard can not get into school, university, work or even public places which shows the dificulty of pursuing their social life and carreer without any struggles.
During that era, the freedom of dress was very controlled and restricted by the law as politics stood behind it. The two presidents of Tunisia were strongly against Islamist and supressed them in any sort of ways. They believed that wearing a head cover, Islamic dress or having a beard is a threat to their authority and safety. They thought that their dress echoed their political orientation and reflected their ideology.The situation was tremendously complicated. Although the number of women wearing Hijab was very little at that time, comparing to present, they suffered from persecution which arroused a pupblic empathy through time.
After the revolution, people believed that things will turn better and that freedom will be guarnteed indeed. However, it only got more and more complicated. Unexpectedly and for the first time the Islamist movement who won by a landslide in the electoral vote because their compain held promises of presperity. Yet they failed the majority of Tunisians and vanished all their hopes to go back to normalcy. Simultaneously with the terrorist attacks usually perpetrated by Islamist affected on them. It became a convention for them, an unwritten law that whoever wears Hijab, Niqab or have beard is a potentiel threat to the people’s safety. Tunisians are no longer tolerant with difference. They became judgementals and frequently linked any Islamic outlook to terrorism and extremism.
Since 2011, after the revolution, every citizen is allowed to wear whatever he/she wants but he has to stand the general feeling of distrust and suspicion. It became more like a package. Tunisia has witnessed two forms of restriction in its history. a written law that restricted the personal freedom and another which was a set of unwritten convention.
by Wiem Saadi