Tunisia security forces to break student sit-in over niqab issue

Ati Metwaly, Saturday 10 Dec 2011

The dean of the Arts Department at the University of Manouba calls on the local police to end a sit-in staged by Salafist students over segregation of sexes

Salafist and secular students clash at the Humanities and Literature Faculty in Manouba University, near Tunis 29 November, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

The ongoing crisis at the University of Manouba is escalating, triggered by a group of Salafist students demanding the right for women to wear the niqab (full-face veil), asking for segregated classes, and a prayer room.

In late November, scuffles broke out between secular students and the Salafis, but there were no serious injuries.

Salafists briefly held Habib Kazdaghli, dean of the School of Arts, Letters, and Humanities, hostage, but he refused to submit to their demands. Tensions grew throughout the first week of December and on 6 December protesters prevented Kazdaghli from entering his office. In response, he suspended all activities at the school until further notice.

The crisis paralyzed the work of the university, forcing it to shut down of further departments on campus, eventually leading to the cease of all activities at the university.

The university website states that on 8 December a meeting was held in the university’s Carthage Auditorium during which the Arts Department council joined by representatives of the workers’ union and a few members of the administration discussed the current situation.

The discussion focused on finding a solution to the sit-in which was entering its ninth day. Teachers underlined the seriousness of the situation, underscoring the importance of remaining calm and reasoning while dealing with the crisis, and to avoid political or religious influences.

On 9 December, referring to Article 30 in the Higher Education Code, the dean of the Arts Department asked local security forces to consider intervening to break up the sit-in.

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