For Some in Tunisia, Ramadan Is a Test of Personal Freedom

Source: The New York Times

By Lilia Blaise

TUNIS — Ramadan ends this week, and that comes none too soon for some in Tunisia — not least the hundred or so protesters who began the Muslim holy month demonstrating against the closing of most cafes and restaurants by drinking water and eating sandwiches in central Tunis in the middle of the day.

The protest did not produce any change in the rules. But it did succeed in highlighting a still-taboo debate in Tunisia: how to govern life during Ramadan in a country where the Constitution, which was put in place after the overthrow of the country’s dictatorship in 2011, enshrines individual liberties.

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Social pressures to observe Ramadan, which requires most people to fast until sunset every day of the holy month, are powerful across the region. In Morocco, a couple were beaten by a group of men who accused them of having sex during the day. In Algeria, a woman set off a wave of anger by going jogging an hour before the end of the fast. Later, 300 people ran in the streets to show their support for her.

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