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

Multimedia Baltimore Mayor Lifts Overnight Curfew

update Saturday's rally is largest organized gathering since state's attonrey filed felony charges in police-custody death of Freddie Gray More

UN Denies Child Sex Abuse Cover Up in CAR

UNHCR says senior official suspected of leaking report suspended for breaching rules More

Nepal Officials Slammed Over Aid Response

VOA News has compiled from various organizations complaints from across Nepal of bottlenecks at customs, repeated harassing inspections of aid convoys and seizure of goods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs