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Topless feminist group FEMEN claims arson behind fire at Paris headquarters

The office of the "militant feminist" group caught fire in what police say was an accident, but FEMEN maintains was a deliberate attack following a death threat.
ShevchenkoFireEnlarge
July 21, 2013- The head of the French branch of radical topless feminist group Femen, Ukrainian Inna Shevchenko, holds a FEMEN t-shirt while sitting among what remains of her belongings after the Femen Centre and her room, located on the second floor, were damaged by a fire earlier in the day. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

A Sunday morning fire damaged the Paris headquarters of the “radical topless feminist group” FEMEN.

While the group is calling the incident arson, a police investigation is treating it as accidental.

FEMEN has called it a "disturbing coincidence" that the fire came one day after the group received a message referring to the activists as “witches” who should “burn,” according to French publication The Local.

“We get death threats every day,” said Pauline Hillier, a member of FEMEN who was detained in Tunisia following a topless protest in May. “Yesterday we received a message that said ‘burn witches.’”

The blaze started at 5 a.m. in a room on the second floor of the building where Ukrainian activist Inna Shevchenko, who was recently granted asylum in France, has been staying.

While she was not there at the time, several other activists were sleeping on the second and top floors—including Hillier—but were not injured.

"We find that there are many coincidences and this has happened just one week after the stamp controversy," Hillier added.

The “stamp controversy” refers to the release of a new stamp on France’s national day, Bastille Day. The stamp was reportedly “partly inspired” by Shevchenko, and is an image of Marianne, the female symbol of the French Republic.

But the stamp generated controversy, “with critics of FEMEN denouncing the new Marianne as a ‘Christianophobe, hater and ideologue’.”

Shevchenko, the most high-profile member of FEMEN, reportedly also enraged Muslims when she welcomed Ramadan with a tweet: "What could be more stupid than Ramadan? What is uglier than this religion?"

The group, which on its website refers to its members as “sextremists,” is an “organization of topless women activists, who defend with their breast social and sexual equality in the world.”

The women call for a global “women’s spring” and promote the protection of women’s rights and “democracy watchdogs attacking patriarchy” within “the dictatorship, the church, [and] the sex industry.”  

Most recently, FEMEN has participated in demonstrations for women’s rights and against mass rape at the Tunisian embassy in Brussels and the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin. They have also actively supported LGBT rights in Russia.

The group has now released a statement calling on supporters for help in rebuilding after the fire.

“Our training center is a holly place of feminism for thousands of women, in a place where new feminists are born,” the statement read. “We openly ask city government of Paris not to stay apart and to help to keep alive such an important historical spot of feminism for Paris. We call everyone to help with donation to renew the place. We need your support! FEMEN can’t burn!”
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/femen-fire-arson-paris