Protesters gathered in the streets of Tunis on Sunday, June 11, to demand the right not to fast during the holy month of Ramadan (May 26 to June 25 in 2017). While officially there is no law against eating or drinking in public during this period, certain individuals who were not fasting have been arrested this year. Four men were sentenced to a month in prison in the beginning of June, an incident that is believed to be at the origin of the protests.
There is no obligation to fast in Tunisia and the Tunisian constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. However, the state is also the authoritative voice on religion in the country.
The holy month of Ramadan is a period of reflection and self-restraint that carries great significance within the Muslim calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims traditionally observe daytime fasting, are called to practice increased devotion, and abstain from certain activities.
More generally, this period also marks a significant increase in regional terror threats in many Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In recent years, Islamic State (IS), as well as other groups, have called on their fighters to perpetrate attacks during Ramadan. During Ramadan in 2015, IS fighters killed 39 people in an attack in Sousse, Tunisia.
Individuals in Tunisia are advised to avoid all forms of public gatherings and demonstrations. Moreover, it is advised to respect local laws and customs and to avoid talking about any sensitive subject such as religion and politics.
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