Tunisian prostitutes demand going back to work

Months after their brothel was attacked by hardline Salafists and closed down

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A group of Tunisian prostitutes demanded Tuesday to be allowed back to work, 18 months after their brothel in the resort town of Sousse was attacked by hardline Salafists and closed down.

A delegation handed deputy parliament speaker Meherzia Laabidi, a woman, a petition signed by 120 prostitutes calling for their brothel in the popular coastal resort to be allowed to reopen.

“We know the state cannot help us financially, because the current economic situation is so bad. That’s why we’re calling for the brothel to be reopened, so we don’t have to ask for charity,” one of them, calling herself Souhir, told AFP by phone.

Souhir said that, in 2012, radical Islamists had attacked the building where she used to, “looted everything they found there... and put us out of work.”

There are numerous whorehouses in Tunisia, where prostitution is regulated by the state.

After the uprising in January 2011, Islamist protesters demanded their closure, even trying to set fire to buildings in the capital’s red light district.

Laabidi, from the Islamist Ennahda party, confirmed to Mosaique FM that she had met the women and agreed to forward their request to the relevant government departments.

“I listened to their demand and I will... write a letter as an MP to the secretary of state for women and to the interior ministry, to see how we can preserve the dignity of these Tunisian citizens” she said.

A short video on the radio station’s website shows her talking to three women whose faces are blurred.

“It’s not an ordinary employment problem,” she told them, adding that “honestly, for me, brothels are a part of the problem.”

The prostitutes insisted their neighbours had no objection to their presence.

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