By Farah Samti | Mar 7 2012Al Manar Campus , Civil protection , confrontation , controversy , Dean of Faculté des Lettres ,
Clashes erupted today between Salafists and students affiliated with the the student union at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Manouba, following an altercationÂ 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 studentsÂ 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.”
LobnaÂ 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 volunteeredÂ to bringÂ 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.