Tunisian women will one day yearn for the days of  Ben Ali who kept Islam under tight wraps.

TUNIS (AFP) – Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi vowed a transition to democracy as hundreds of women rallied on Saturday in the Tunisian capital to express their fears of an Islamist resurgence.

Women’s groups took to the streets of Tunis to defend the extensive rights for which they have fought for more than half a century, on the eve of the return of Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi from exile.

Actresses, university lecturers and human rights campaigners said they wanted to make sure their rights stay intact despite the recent upheavals.

Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahdha (Awakening) movement, is due in Tunis on Sunday, having fled the country in the early 1990s after Ben Ali cracked down on Islamists, which is still officially banned.

“We want to send an important message to the Islamists, especially those from the Ennahdha movement — that we are not ready to pull back on or abandon our rights,” said Sabah Mahmoudi, a university lecturer.

Relative calm returned to Tunisia’s capital a day after a new transition cabinet was sworn in and interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi vowed a transition to democracy and an economic revival.