TUNISIA: Alarm over attacks against 'incorrect' clothes

University staff and students in Tunisia have raised the alarm over verbal and physical attacks against academics and students that happened because they were wearing clothing considered unsuitable by their attackers.

La Presse of Tunis reported on a meeting of the Tunisian University Forum (FUT) that discussed how to deal with acts of violence carried out by students against teaching staff and students.

The paper reported that the meeting heard of violence at several universities, notably Sousse and La Manouba, where the academics and students, mostly women, had been attacked by "students belonging to the Islamic wave and female students wearing the niqab who, a lecturer stressed, were 'continuously threatening colleagues, and were gaining ground'".

La Presse said panic and distress reigned in university and faculty corridors practically everywhere. The FUT called on the provisional government and the ministry responsible to take a firm decision to protect lecturers and students and guarantee their safety.

The forum also called for meetings to be organised in all institutions to send the message to all lecturers and students that such behaviour was unacceptable; that as academics they were against violence; that universities must remain neutral, and places of knowledge; and students, whatever their beliefs, must be allies and not enemies or accomplices for one front or another.

Separately, a group of teachers and students from the faculty of law and political sciences and the faculty of economics and management in Tunis held a protest meeting to demand "respect of individual freedom, including freedom of dress and acceptance of others", reported La Presse.

The protest took place following an incident at the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Tunis, when a group of students verbally attacked a woman lecturer on the pretext that her clothing was incorrect, said the paper.

Union official Sami Aouadi said the protest was not aimed at any specific party, but was an appeal to preserve the integrity of the university, which must not be exploited to make any attack on the individual freedoms of teachers, as well as students.

He said the incident must not be used to justify the return of university police, and recalled that under the old regime the university had defended the right of women students wearing veils to attend courses.

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.