Classrooms were empty, but the campus of Manouba University remained the arena of protests against the university’s policy prohibiting the niqab, or full-body veil.
The number of Islamist protestors was down to just 50 or so, compared with around 200 over the past two days. They were joined by 150 or so other students who came to observe and engage with the protesters.
Bilel Chawachee,25, a student at Zitouna University demonstrating in Manouba today, told Tunisia Live that the demonstrators planned to release a communiqué announcing the formation of a an organization to advocate for the right to wear the niqab in universities throughout Tunisia.
“It is going to be an explanatory communiqué stating our demands and refuting the rumors that have been circulating about us. We want to clarify our position as a non-political group, hence our announcement of the creation of a new committee called the National Student Committee to support students who wear the burka,” said Chawachee.
“The committee will have a monitoring and organizational role,” added Chawachee. He confirmed that the communiqué will be released at some time today.
The unexpected arrival of Ahmed Ibrahim, the leader of the leftist Ettajdid Movement, created an uproar among both protesting and observing students, who together shouted “dégage,” the now famous epithet used by protesters during the January Revolution to demand the departure of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
According to observers, the students were upset by the perceived politicization of the situation.
Feathers were ruffled by the distribution of a flyer with the provocative title, “Sister, What Is Preventing You from Wearing the Niqab,” promoting the use of the full-body veil.
Questioned about the flyer, Chawachee asserted that the leadership committee of the protest was not responsible for it and whoever issued it had not consulted organizers.