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Tunisian women free not to wear hijab: Ennahda

TUNIS | 10/28/2011 12:00:00 AM |

As officials confirm Ennahda’s victory in Tunisia’s first-ever free elections, the party’s leader immediately promises the country’s women that they will be free to dress as they choose unlike the leftists’ fears

Ennahda, the Islamist winner of Tunisia’s elections last weekend, will not force women to wear the hijab because similar attempts to do that in other Arab states have failed, the party’s leader said Oct. 28.

 “Ennahda will not change the way of life ... It will leave that up to Tunisian women,” Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi said Oct. 28 in promising women the right to choose whether or not to wear the Islamic veil.

Ghannouchi also said women would have jobs in the coalition government his party would “whether they wear a veil or don’t wear a veil.” Meanwhile, Ennahda expects to form a new government within 10 days, party Secretary General Hamadi Jbeli, who is likely to be prime minister in the new Cabinet, said Oct. 28. Jbeli said the economic program be prioritized in the discussions.

But as victory celebrations were underway, Ennahda’s offices in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution, were targeted by youths upset after candidates belonging to rival party were disqualified by election authorities.

“Ennahda calls on Tunisians to pull together, for dialogue and the rejection of violence ... We accuse people from the [former ruling party] RCD of fanning the violence in Sidi Bouzid,” said Ghannouchi after the incidents.

 Late-night results showed Ennahda, banned under dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, took 90 of the 217 seats, or 41.47 percent, in an assembly that will rewrite the constitution and appoint a president and a caretaker government. The Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol emerged as the biggest parties on the splintered left, with 30 and 21 seats, respectively. Both have said they were in coalition talks with Ennahda. Fourth place, or 19 seats, went to the Petition for Justice and Development, a grouping of independents led by Hechmi Haamdi, a rich London-based businessman said to have close ties to Ben Ali.

“Ennahda is committed to respecting peace in the world and to respecting all Tunisia’s agreements,” said Ghannouchi. “The revolution did not destroy the state, it destroyed a regime.”

Ghannouchi said Oct. 28 that he would pursue a liberal economic policy which included making the country’s dinar convertible. Convertibility, a reform which should encourage foreign investment, was a commitment of Ben Ali’s administration.

“We are in favor of the convertibility of the Tunisian dinar,” Ghannouchi told Reuters in an interview. Asked about a timetable for this, he said: “Our experts are going to give clarifications on that.”

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