Tunisia teacher suspended for wearing niqab

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Tunisian salafi women walk in front of Okba Ibn Nafaa mosque in the city of Kairouan on May 18, 2013.

Tunisian salafi women walk in front of Okba Ibn Nafaa mosque in the city of Kairouan on May 18, 2013.

TUNIS -- Tunisia&39;s education ministry said Saturday it has suspended a primary school teacher and a supervisor for refusing to obey an order to stop wearing the niqab, or full face veil.

The North African country has suffered a wave of Islamist violence since the 2011 overthrow of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Last year, the interior ministry ordered police to step up spot checks of women wearing the niqab.

"Several times the ministry warned a teacher in Hammam Lif (south of Tunis) and a supervisor in Jendouba (in the northwest) to remove the niqab at work, but when they refused they were suspended," ministry official Mohamed el Haj Ettaeib said.

He said the two could be fired if they continue to defy the ban, which the ministry introduced in February last year.

"This measure has been taken because of terrorist threats against the country and because suspects use the niqab... to disguise themselves and evade justice," the ministry said at the time.

Wearing the niqab was not tolerated under the regime of ousted strongman Ben Ali, who ruthlessly repressed all forms of Islamism.

However, it has experienced a boom since the revolution and continues to generate debate.

Universities have seen clashes between those who defend the right to wear the veil and their detractors.

Since the revolution, Tunisia has seen a rise of jihadist extremism with dozens of police and soldiers killed as well as 59 foreign tourists in two attacks this year claimed by the Islamic State group.