Morocco blames victim for anti-LGBTI mob attack

Moustapha Ramid, justice minister of Morocco. (Photo courtesy of ToutSurLeMaroc.com)
Moustapha Ramid, justice minister of Morocco. (Photo courtesy of ToutSurLeMaroc.com)

Human Rights Watch has urged Moroccan officials to stop stirring up anti-gay sentiments in the wake of a mob attack in Fez on an allegedly gay man, who may in fact be a trans woman.

This is an excerpt from the Human Rights Watch press release:


Morocco: Homophobic Response to Mob Attack
Justice Minister Implies Victim Shares Blame

(Rabat, July 15, 2015) – Moroccan officials should stop making homophobic comments in the wake of a mob attack on a man in Fez on June 29, 2015, Human Rights Watch said today.

While Justice Minister Moustapha Ramid has said the assailants should be prosecuted and two suspects are in custody, he has made several anti-gay statements since the assault. He said that homosexuals should avoid “provoking society,” and that citizens must not “enforce the law themselves” – as though the victim had been breaking the law due to his appearance. The Justice Ministry frequently prosecutes men under the country’s anti-homosexuality laws.

“What the person in charge of justice in Morocco should be announcing in the wake of this gay-bashing incident is a zero-tolerance policy toward such attacks,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, he goes around making statements that suggest that people perceived as gay are abnormal and share the blame for anti-gay violence.”

Location of Fez in Morocco. (Map courtesy of UFL.edu)
Location of Fez in Morocco. (Map courtesy of UFL.edu)

The beating began at about 1:30 a.m., June 29, when a taxi driver ejected a male passenger after a dispute, shouting repeatedly that the passenger was a “khanit,” local pejorative slang for a homosexual or effeminate man, the victim told Human Rights Watch. A crowd surrounded the man and pummeled him, knocking him to the ground as they continued their attack, a scene that was captured on cell phones and posted on Moroccan news websites. In the videos the victim appears to have long hair and to be wearing a white robe. “The taxi driver’s yelling caused this whole thing,” he said. “I didn’t invite this attack or deserve it. I’m like any other person.’’

On July 1, the police announced the arrest of two 30-year-old suspects. At a first hearing on July 7, the Fez court refused to provisionally release the suspects and scheduled a second hearing for July 23. Moroccan media reported that they are being charged with assault. Fifty-five lawyers from several regions of the country, many representing Moroccan human rights organizations, have offered the victim legal support.

A policeman aided by a few youths eventually extricated the victim, who was taken to a police station, where he remained until noon the following day. The police questioned him about the beating but filed no charges against him.

Human Rights Watch is aware of a series of cases in which men have been prosecuted and imprisoned under article 489 of Morocco’s Penal Code, which provides a prison sentence of between 6 months and 3 years for “acts against nature when committed between members of the same sex.” Many of the trials appear to have been unfair, including two 2014 cases. In May, a first instance court sentenced three men in Taourirt to three years in prison for alleged homosexual acts in a private setting. The case is before the Oujda Appeals Court.

Morocco should abolish article 489 and decriminalize all sexual relations between consenting adults, Human Rights Watch said. The combination of a country that enforces anti-gay laws, a justice system that denies a fair trial, and the social stigma attached to homosexuality is a formula for serious violations of the rights to privacy and equality and other basic rights.

In addition, the criminalization of “unnatural acts” – and the demonstrated pattern of prosecutions of men perceived as gay, even when the evidence of a sexual act is weak or non-existent, inhibits victims of anti-gay violence from filing a police complaint.

For more information, read the full press release.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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