SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 06, 2019

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Tunis El Manar University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Tunisia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 6, 2019, the Faculté de Médecine de Tunis (FMT), of Tunis El Manar University, reportedly suspended a student for publishing a Facebook post critical of the university’s facilities management.

On June 8, 2019, Wajih Dhokkar, a third-year medical student, allegedly criticized FMT in a student Facebook group for deactivating the air conditioning in the library.

On July 26, university officials reportedly decided to suspend Dhokkar on charges of defamation and misinformation, but did not notify him of their decision until September 6. On September 10, Dhokkar reportedly received the official notice letter indicating that his suspension would go into effect that day.

In response, L’Organisation Tunisienne des Jeunes Médecins (The Tunisian Organization of Young Doctors) filed a lawsuit against the university. As of now, Dhokkar’s suspension remains in place. Due to the timing of his suspension, Dhokkar will have to repeat a hospital internship and will likely graduate later than planned.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about retaliation by a university against a student in apparent connection to his nonviolent exercise of opinion and expression – conduct which is explicitly protected under international human rights instruments, including the University Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. Universities have a responsibility to refrain from wrongful disciplinary action in retaliation for nonviolent expression.