During a press conference held today, protesters at Manouba University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities announced that the students wearing the niqab (full-face veil) will begin an open hunger strike tomorrow, January 17, until their demands are met.
The niqab incident at Manouba University started on November 28, 2011, when a group of Salafists – Muslims belonging to a strict Islamist fundamentalist school of thought – protested against the ban of the niqab. Girls wearing the face-covering were prohibited from taking their exams or attending classes. The protesters demanded that students be allowed to wear the niqab and that an area for prayer be provided inside the university. Administrative faculty and professors rejected the demonstrators’ demands, which resulted in the suspension of classes for weeks.
At the press conference, the protesters declared that they are committed to their demands and that they will not give up on their cause. They also addressed the administrative faculty’s lack of seriousness regarding their case. Additionally, they stated that the sit-in was completely peaceful, but that their cause was exploited for political reasons.
The Salafist demonstrators announced that girls wearing the niqab (which are five) will begin an open hunger strike until their demands are met.
Imen Ben Rouha, one of the students planning to participate in the hunger strike, said that the faculty refused to speak with them or even try to resolve this issue. Ben Rouha also stated that the University’s administration verbally abused them. “We are ready to sacrifice our lives for this cause. This is our right and we are open to any dialogue that can lead to a solution to this case,” she stated.
Mohamed Amine Rahali, one of the organizers of the sit-in, said that they may join the hunger strike as a display of solidarity.