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: January 10, 2011

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):All Tunisian Academic Institutions

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Tunisia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 10, 2011, the Tunisian government ordered all of the country’s school and university campuses shut down indefinitely, amid growing, nationwide anti-government protests.  
The popular uprising began in December 2010, following the self-immolation of a street vendor, in protest of corruption and mistreatment by local authorities. In the weeks that followed, the protests grew increasingly widespread, with protesters expressing anger over the Tunisian economy and frustration with the counry’s government. In early January, students reportedly got involved in the protests on a large scale, organizing rallies through social media including Twitter and Facebook. The government reportedly ordered all Tunisian schools and universities closed, in an apparent effort to stem further protests and restore order.
Universities were reportedly reopened the week of January 24, 2011.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the nationwide closure of a university system as a response to, or a means of preventing the exercise of the rights to free expression and association.  While states authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, ensuring public safety and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, and that respect internationally recognized standards of free expression and association. University closures, even if temporary, severely undermine university values including academic freedom and university autonomy.