Police brake up Salafist sit-in at Tunisia's Manouba University

Ati Metwaly, Friday 6 Jan 2012

Police end niqab and gender segregation protest by Salafists at Manouba University that had been ongoing for over a month

On 2 January, the students found Faculty of Letters, Arts, and Humanities at the University of Manouba closed


According to information released by Manouba University on 6 January, police intervention has dispersed Salafist protesters who had been staging a sit-in and occupying the administrative offices of the Faculty of Letters, Arts, and Humanities at the university in Tunisia for over a month.

After negotiations with a number of parties, including governmental officials, the university failed to clear the protest and police intervention on 5 January cleared the Salafists from the offices. 

The protesters agreed to move into a tent they had set up during past month without interfering with the university’s operations.

The University of Manouba announced that classes would resume today, 6 January.

Since late November 2011, the work of the Faculty of Letters, Arts, and Humanities has been hindered by a group of Salafist students demanding the right for women to wear the niqab (full-face veil), segregated classes, and a prayer room.

After the dean of the department, Habib Kazdaghli, rejected their demands, the Salafists prevented him from entering his office and other administrative offices on Tuesday, 6 December. In response, Kazdaghli suspended all activities at the school. In parallel, the Salafists staged a sit-in at the university campus and according to the university, their numbers had been growing in recent weeks.

As the situation escalated, the university did not receive any concrete solutions from the Ministry of Education, while many students became more and more irritated by the closure of the academic institution, with hundreds of them protesting in front of the Ministry of Education on 4 January.

Manouba University is one of many academic institutions facing pressures from ultra-conservative Salafists in Tunisia. The recently elected coalition government, led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, has promised not to impose strict Islamic rules on society, but a small contingent of Salafists are trying to impose their understanding of Islam on the country and overturn its secular laws.

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