Clash Over the Niqab, Prayer Spaces, at Tunisian University: An Hourly Account

News article, posted 12.05.2011, from Tunisia, in:
Hend Hassassi
Clash Over the Niqab, Prayer Spaces, at Tunisian University: An Hourly Account (Photo: Tunisia Live)

Yesterday, November 28, a protest broke out at the University of Arts and Humanities in Manouba, a city in northeastern Tunisia located near the capital. Islamist student protestors demanded the right to wear the burka – a full body cloak – on campus and the right to establish a prayer space.

Around 8:00am, students arriving on campus were greeted with a banner draped over the front gate reading, “We demand our sisters’ right to wear the burka and a prayer space.” Most students paid no attention to the banner and simply kept on walking.

However, as soon as students reached the university yard, they discovered that each individual department’s gates were locked. Tall bearded men blocked the entrance and prevented anyone from entering – including professors. One of the protestors stood on a table and addressed onlookers, “We are on strike and you should support our cause – one day we will stand by you!” Given that it was the first day of regular scheduled examinations, the protest came as an unpleasant surprise for students – most of whom spent long hours studying the night before.

Fifteen minutes later, the university’s dean and two campus administrators arrived on the scene. They tried to calm down the protestors and to allow students enter their respective departments. However, their attempts appeared to be in vain as soon as some of the protestors started shouting, “Allahu Akbar,” and made it clear that they were determined to remain in their positions.


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