04/19/2013, 00.00
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Salafists attack young women with stones and bottles in Tunis student hostel

Female university students had started a dance and music show when dozens of Salafists attacked them with stones and bottles whilst police stood idly by.

Tunis (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Armed with bottles, sticks and stones, a group of Islamists attacked female students staying at the Bardo district hostel. The attack took place Wednesday evening. Although police were present, they did not move to stop the fanatics.

Local sources said that the students were just starting a weekly show of dance and music on Wednesday evening when dozens of Salafists broke into the premises after a neighbour complained, smashing windows and throwing stones and bottles at the students. The attack lasted about an hour.

"This is unacceptable . . . . The police were present and did not move. It just raises anger and fear," said Ameni, a student. The Interior Ministry, which runs the police, had no immediate comment.

Hostel administrator Raja Madyouni said the university has 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.

The hostel incident is 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.

Many Tunisians accuse Islamists of setting up a religious police to terrorise people and impose Sharia.

In recent months, Islamic radicals have attacked wine sellers, tobacco shops, cafés, hairdressers, beauty salons, cultural centres.

In several cities, Salafists have disrupted concerts and plays because they are considered contrary to Islam.

Habib Kozdhogli, head of the arts faculty at Tunis University, goes on trial on 2 May after he was charged for slapping a veiled student in 2012 when she insisted on entering a class last year. For Salafists, he abused the student, but according to several other witnesses, the student was pushed by some Islamists to throw herself violently against the professor.

After the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist Ennahda party came to power, Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring of 2011, has been turned into a battlefield between secularist and Islamist groups. This has plunged the country into political, economic and social turmoil.

Tensions reached a climax on 7 February with the murder of Chokri Belaid, a charismatic opposition leader and coordinator of the Democratic Patriots' Movement.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the murder, but Islamic extremists are suspected.


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