Tunisian Salafists storm female student hostel to stop dancing
By Tarek Amara
TUNIS (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 to 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. Continued...