An official of the college tries to prevent the Al Jazeera cameraman from filming protests at the ISERI higher ediucation institute earlier today, 12 January, 2012. This is supposed to be the coolest time of year, but things are heating up in Mauritania. Protests over the suspected closure of the Institute of Islamic Studies in the capital, Nouakchott, have been ongoing since student registrations were suspended towards the end of 2011. There has been increasing intensity of protest action and in the violence perpetrated against protesters by the police, who have stormed the building several times, using tear gas grenades and shells, even inside the corridors of the school building. Four students are still under arrest since last weekend. The reasons for suspending student registration and now the rumored closure are unclear, but in an Islamic country with a reputation for excellence in Islamic Studies this issue is seen as an attack on the very heart of Mauritanian culture.
This photograph from protests on 10th January 2012 shows the markings on the 12-gauge tear gas cartridges – “Spartan France” and “Nobel Sport”What makes this situation even more puzzling is that just 3 months ago, the Mauritanian government announced a month-long training programme for imams at the Institute of Islamic Studies as part of a push to encourage “moderate beliefs”.
Events at ISERI are just one of a series of protests and other issues affecting civil and political society that are rapidly reaching boiling point in what promises to be a challenging year for Mauritania.
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