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 12, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Sfax | Various

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Tunisia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 12, 2021, students from the General Union of Tunisian Students (GUTS) violently attacked another group of students at the University of Sfax (UOS) after they refused to participate in a general student strike day organized by the union. 

The GUTS organized a boycott of classes to protest the continuation of in-person classes during the Covid-19 pandemic and the alleged lack of health and safety measures taken by the university. Several students ignored the strike and continued to attend class. 

GUTS students allegedly attacked students who attended class, leading to several hospitalizations. Classes were canceled for two days in response to the violence.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent attacks committed by students against other students, apparently intended to restrict their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal 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, the use of violence in response to peaceful expressive activity on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.


*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).