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.
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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid