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Tunis School Overrun, Looted during Unrest
By Daniel Lincoln 01-Oct-12
Violent anti-American protests broke out across the Muslim world in September, over a U.S.-made, slanderous film about the Prophet Muhammad. Tunisia was not spared, and demonstrators attempted to storm the American embassy in Tunis on 14 September before venting their anger across the highway on the American Cooperative School of Tunis (ACST)—ironically, ACST caters mostly to non-American expatriate families, employed by the African Development Bank. ACST Director Allan Bredy, who had sent his 650 students home early, said a handful of protestors scaled the fence and dismantled monitoring cameras, followed by several hundred others who overran the campus and looted everything in sight, including computers, musical instruments, and the safe in his office, before setting the buildings alight. ACTS “was ransacked,” Mr. Bredy said. “We were thinking it was something the government would keep under control, but we had no idea they would allow things to go as wildly as they did.” Mr. Bredy joined David Santiago, ACST’s Director of Security, and a group of staff members armed with baseball bats, to chase lingering looters away by the end of the day, but the damage was done. ACST’s elementary library was burned down, along with its 10,000 books; classrooms were plundered of anything valuable; two school vehicles were destroyed; and 300 computers—most of them brand new—were stolen. In an interview with local English-language news outlet Tunisia Live, Dorsaf Kouki, a teacher at ACST for 20 years, lamented the destruction of the ACST amphitheater, which she considered “the school’s masterpiece.” “It was completely inhumane,” said Ms. Kouki, who could not comprehend that such an event could happen in a country otherwise known as “a place of tolerance and open-mindedness.” A few days later, Mr. Bredy hosted Mustapha Ben Jaafar, head of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly (NCA), when he visited the school. Mr. Bredy reminded his guest of the government’s responsibility to protect the school, and that Tunisian security forces did not arrive until three hours after the first emergency call was made. Thankfully no ACTS students were hurt during the incident; nevertheless, “it could have been a disaster if the children had been here,” said Mr. Bredy. In a statement to the Tunisian press following his visit to ACST, Mr. Ben Jaafar condemned the looting and destruction as a “major crime”: “Today, I felt a lot of anger. The beautiful image of our revolution was distorted ... The Tunisian people are a tolerant people who have lived through so many civilizations. We have always respected others and their differences.” At this writing, ACST’s teachers are all staying on. The school has reopened, and the Tunisian government is taking concrete actions to ensure its speedy restoration.
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10/07/2012 - Katy Vance
I looked online, and ACST has set up a recovery fund. You can see the information on their website. http://www.acst.net/ I think this is an important addition to this article.
10/07/2012 - Katy Vance
I am a librarian at an international school in Angola. Are there any efforts being coordinated by TIE to help restore facilities and materials, particularly the elementary library?