News / Africa

Tunisian Salafists Storm Female Student Hostel

FILE - A woman waves a Tunisia flag during a rally to protest against religious and political violence in Tunis, Oct. 22, 2012.
FILE - A woman waves a Tunisia flag during a rally to protest against religious and political violence in Tunis, Oct. 22, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Hardline Islamists threw stones and bottles at young women in a student hostel in Tunis to stop them staging a performance of dance and music, witnesses said on Thursday, in another blow to secular freedoms in the country that spawned the Arab Spring.

Since secular dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fell two years ago in the first of multiple revolts across the Arab world, moderate Islamists have won election and radical Muslims have targeted symbols of a hitherto mainly secular society.

Female university students housed at the Bardo district hostel in the capital were just starting a weekly show of dance and music on Wednesday evening when dozens of hardline Salafists broke into the premises after scaling its walls, witnesses said.

"They smashed windows on our building and threw stones and bottles at the students, stopping the performance,'' said Rim Nsairi, one of the students, who are aged 19-24.

The disturbance lasted almost an hour before the assailants fled. There were no serious injuries and no arrests.

"This is unacceptable ... The police were present and did not move. It just raises anger and fear,'' said Ameni, another student who did not want her last name used. The Interior Ministry, which runs the police, had no immediate comment.

Hostel administrator Raja Madyouni said the university had now tightened security. Salafists had previously threatened female students because of their Western dress and in some cases smoking and relations with young men, according to Madyouni.

It was the latest in a spate of Salafist assaults in the North African state, long among the most secular in the Arab world, over the past year.

Last week, Islamists burst into a secondary school and assaulted its principal after he barred entry to a teenage girl wearing an Islamic face veil. Police fired at Islamists, killing one, after their station came under attack in a southern town.

A woman cries as she prays in front of the tomb of anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid at a ceremony to mark the 40th day of mourning after his assassination, Tunis, March 16, 2013.A woman cries as she prays in front of the tomb of anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid at a ceremony to mark the 40th day of mourning after his assassination, Tunis, March 16, 2013.
x
A woman cries as she prays in front of the tomb of anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid at a ceremony to mark the 40th day of mourning after his assassination, Tunis, March 16, 2013.
A woman cries as she prays in front of the tomb of anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid at a ceremony to mark the 40th day of mourning after his assassination, Tunis, March 16, 2013.
Tunisian police blamed Salafists for the assassination of secular opposition politician Chokri Belaid in February, which provoked the biggest street protests in Tunisia since the overthrow of Ben Ali in January 2011.

Salafists have also attacked wine sellers in several Tunisian cities, prompting secularists to accuse them of having formed a religious police and threatening the state.

Salafists intervened to scuttle the staging of several concerts and plays in several cities last year, declaring that they violated Islamic principles. Last September, hardline Islamists ransacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis during worldwide Muslim protests over an anti-Islam video posted on the Internet.

In another sign of growing Islamist-secularist friction, Habib Kozdhogli, head of the arts faculty at Tunis university, is expected to go on trial on May 2, charged with slapping a veiled student who insisted on entering a class last year.

Moderate Ennahda Islamists who won a free election now head a coalition government in Tunis. But Salafists are pressing for Islam to be made the law of the land and secularists say Ennahda is doing little to safeguard individual and women's rights.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid