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    Flag Desecration Leads to Violence at the University of Manouba

    By Farah Samti | Mar 7 2012 Share on Linkedin Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Share on pinterest Print

    Tags: Al Manar Campus , Civil protection , confrontation , controversy , Dean of Faculté des Lettres ,

    Unrest amongst the students at Manouba University

    Clashes erupted today between Salafists and students affiliated with the the student union at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Manouba, following an altercation that ensued yesterday between two female students wearing the niqab – a veil revealing only the eyes – and the dean.

    Demonstrators, mainly Salafists, gathered in front of the administration building in protest of yesterday’s incident, and demanded the right for female students to wear the niqab during classes and exams. As the situation on the campus escalated, one of the Salafist students replaced the Tunisian flag with a black flag bearing the shahada – the Islamic declaration of faith. The act provoked an eruption of violence between members of the student union and other students.

    “One of the professors who witnessed the Tunisian flag taken down was brought to tears,” stated Manel Bejaoui, a non-veiled student that studies English at the university. “It breaks my heart to see the mess that our university is going through,” she added.

    Imen Berouha and Faten Hajji, two niqab-wearing students who were suspended from Manouba University for sixth months for their participation in earlier riots, claim that they were violently attacked by the University’s dean, Habib Kazdaghli, as they headed to his office to object against their suspension.

    Professor Amel Jaidi, head of the English department, denied the accusation. “The two students broke into the Dean’s office and refused to leave when asked by the Dean. They broke the window and threw his files all over the office,” she said. Jaidi stated that the district attorney came to examine the damage caused at the dean’s office yesterday.

    Mariem, a mathematics student from a different university who also wears a niqab, went to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities today to show support for Berouha and Hajji. “Violence against female students is not acceptable. It is unfair to suspend them. I wear the niqab. I go to the Faculty of Sciences in Al Manar and was never bothered there.”

    Niqab-wearing Manouba students participate in the demonstrations on the university's campus

    Lobna Kachnaoui, a friend of Berouha, claimed that Berouha was hospitalized after the dean pushed and kicked her repeatedly. “The doctor gave her a medical certificate because of the bruises, and ordered her to rest for ten days.”

    According to Kachnaoui, a few lawyers have volunteered to bring charges against the dean. “Members of the student union were provoking us, mentioning God’s name in vain. That was the main reason for the violence this morning,” she added.

    After relative calm was restored for a few hours, clashes between students began again around 3:00 pm. However, the violent exchange was halted following the arrival of civil protection officials and the National Guard.

    The incident involving the removal of the Tunisian flag has subsequently sparked nationwide controversy in media, including social media. Citizens, civil society groups, and political parties have condemned this perceived desecration of the flag. Additionally, the Kolna Tounes organization has called for a demonstration tomorrow in front of the National Constituent Assembly to denounce the violation of the Tunisian flag.


  • By Farah Samti  / 
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      peter herbert /

      All the students should be asked to sign a declaration that they agree to abide by the University rules. Failure to do so means they give up their right to be students at the University. The minority must not be allowed to damage the right to a University education at this important time in Tunisia’s development.

    1. Alyssa Tounsia /

      Some people just do not understand: they cannot wear Niqab at University. Maybe they can go to Iran or …??? to study ( is there a country in the world that allows this? )
      Or Maybe the Salafists can create their own university for Niqab wearing women. Good luck with that!! and good luck finding a job wearing a Niqab.

    2. Marwan /

      The niqab is an insult to islam. And the salafists of Tunisia are an insult to the revolution. These men and women are fascist traitors and should be treated accordingly. It’s time to crack down on these groups. Big time. If only Ennahda could see the writing on the wall.

    3. peter herbert /

      Marwan and Alyssa I think your comments are excellent and show that in Tunisia there are people who can see what the future should be.Disagree about Iran though I suggest Afghanistan where women do not have to be concerned with human rights because they dont have any!!!! Is that what they want for Tunisian women???

    4. Afif /

      The paramount concern in a University setting should be education. Thus, to the extent anyone violates the disciplinary rules should be suspended or permanently dismissed. The police should be there to protect the University as an institution of learning and exchange of ideas free of violence.
      There is bright line between freedom of expression and the freedom of others to go to school. I urge the goverment to take a firm stand on this issue and enforce the rules of the university.
      Again, the country is drowning folks..wake up and smell the coffee.

    5. Willie /

      The conservatives should be allowed to set up a conservative university, where the rules are that men and women are separated and women must wear the Niqab, along with whatever other rules they wish.

      Then by way of personal choice, the liberal people can go to the liberal university and the conservative people to the conservative university.

      The state, by way of the rule of law, aims as an ideal, to enforce nothing but the freedom of choice, so that if a liberal woman wants to escape her “evil” life and become conservative, nobody can compel her otherwise because she has the protection of law enforcement.

      And if a conservative woman wants to escape her “evil” life and become liberal, nobody can compel her otherwise because she has the protection of law enforcement.

      There are a small minority of people on either side of this debate who would see this rule of law as illegitimate, because somehow, unlike everybody else who was ever born, they know the real Truth, and their reason is infallible. So unfortunately conflict is an inevitability. To protect freedom, a line must be drawn somewhere – at the point where people attempt to compel others to live the way they want them to, denying them their free choice to accept and worship God in the way they think He has intended, or to reject Him altogether and deal with the consequences of that choice.

      Unfortunately, free choice is not accepted by enough people for this ideal situation to arise. It is not a common pattern of thought. It is known of and understood by most, but not practiced much in the mind.

      Many people prefer the safety of other people making decisions for them, rather than the uncertainty of being left free to choose for themselves.

      So what tends to arise as a societal value is that we must either ban something for everyone or mandate it for everyone.

      Through either the fallacy of the majority (the strict secularists) or through the fallacy of physical intimidation and violence (the strict conservatives) it is in human nature to try to compel people to behave according to how we think others should live.

      And this is what is so beautiful and special about Tunisia at this moment. It is without a clear set of rules, and whatever rules there are – many of them are unenforced. Some may argue this is a bad thing, and I certainly agree it is bad and dangerous in many cases. And also that it is causing a lot of problems.

      But there are elements of good to it. In some countries, Christian churches are banned. In others, Minarets are banned. Proselytizing is banned in many more. The internet, and ideas are filtered in most. Saying what you think is banned in a majority. Thinking (through practicing religion in the way you believe it ought to be) is banned in many.

      But here in Tunisia, for a short period of time, all these things are largely unenforced, and people are freer than in most places in the world.

      In the coming months and years, things will settle, societal norms will regain their power, new laws will be made and existing laws will be enforced. The internet filters will be turned back on. Bans will be enforced, people won’t be burdened with the necessity to think for themselves, and everything will return to “normal”.

      That is all.

    6. T /

      The situation at this university should have been stopped a long time ago, all this is so unnecessary. There are other universities where women in niqab are accepted, so why not there? How many actually wear it? 3? 5? Why is it such a big deal and why should they go to Iran? Aren’t they tunisians? By the way, even in the european country I come from, niqab is allowed in the university. What’s happening here is ridiculous and shouldn’t even be an issue.


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