The university campus of Manouba, Tunisia, has been closed since December 6 as a group of Salafist students hold the school to hostage over the issue of the hijab. What began as a small protest by two female students determined to be allowed to wear the full face veil to classes, has developed into a stand off between a group of about 60 Salafists and the university, which refuses to accede to their demands.
According to FT
the protest has prevented 13,000 students from attending their classes. Now a group of 200 anti-niqab protesters have begun to demonstrate. The university stands firmly in favour of education remaining secular as it was under the rule of President Bin Ali. The faculty has presented its reason for not compromising and allowing those female students who wish to wear the hijab to do so. It cites the possibility of weapons being hidden, students hiding cheating devices and the "difficulty of teaching pupils whose facial expressions are concealed."
reported that students and professors are demanding that the Ministry of Education resolves the issue. One student said "We do not want to lose a whole year; we want to go back to our classes. We want the Ministry to get involved in solving this problem."
During November, when the niqab protest began, Tunisia Live
reported that Salafist students held a Manouba University Dean and several professors hostage. One professor called for the army to become involved but the Ministry of Education is hoping to resolve the protests without any violent interference.
A spokesman for Ennahdha simply said the university must attempt to resolve the protest "without infringing in any shape or form on a woman's fundamental right to choose her own clothing."