Moroccan authorities clamp down on homosexuality
By Imane Belhaj for Magharebia in Casablanca – 26/03/09
Moroccan authorities want to strictly confront all practices and suppress all brochures, books and publications that seek to undermine the country's religious and ethical values.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Interior on March 21st revealed the full scope of the government's agenda: to "preserve citizens' ethics and defend our society against all irresponsible actions that mar our identity and culture".
The state's initiative reportedly comes in response to recent articles in the press calling for greater tolerance of homosexuality. The source: a press release by Samir Berkashi, co-ordinator of "Kif Kif", an association that defends the interests of homosexuals.
Berkashi affirmed that his association receives support from political parties, human rights associations, and foreign diplomatic missions in Morocco, noting that homosexuals are everywhere in the fields of media, civil society, and politics in Morocco.
Kif Kif "operates in Morocco through an intermediary association recognised by law," he explained, since it "cannot publicly operate in Morocco, as long as laws continue to prohibit homosexuality."
In an unexpected and unprecedented step for gay rights activists, the head of Kif Kif plans to hold a press conference on April 15th in Marrakech.
Berkashi, however, denied the controversial news published by the Arabic language As Sabah newspaper concerning his interview with French-language Aujourd’hui Le Maroc.
"Lately, voices were heard from media platforms seeking to promote some forms of disgraceful behaviour, thus provoking national public opinion, and disregarding our ethical and religious values in society," stated the report from the Interior Ministry.
When asked, people on the street reacted differently to the issue of homosexuality, ranging from acceptance to rejection.
"Homosexuality should be viewed within the context of respecting human rights and diversity," said civil servant Khaled Daoui.
Others had entirely different views.
"It is prohibited in our religion and our traditions. God has forbidden such sins," exclaimed Soumia Tazi, a teacher.
"Homosexuality is copied from Western movies, TV shows, and porn channels that promote such practices, and which are, in turn, adversely reflected on younger generations who follow suit, unaware of the consequences," added university student Mohamed Zahi.
Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco, and is punishable by "imprisonment for six months to three years and a fine of 200 to 1,200 dirhams".
"The report of the Ministry of Interior involves some sort of a threat and a curbing of freedom of expression, as it constitutes an infringement on personal freedom," Khadija Radi, head of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, told Magharebia.
"Much of it is subject to interpretation, since it does not exclusively deal with homosexuals, but includes other things as well," Radi added, referring to the State's recently declared battle against the spread of Shi'ism.
As for Kif Kif, one member who refused to disclose his name told Magharebia that the group "will not give in to the threats of the state, and will pursue its activities while respecting the law, personal freedom, and human rights".
On Thursday (March 26th), Berkashi told the Spanish press that the Moroccan government had not attempted to prevent him from holding his April 15th press conference. However, Berkashi added, were the authorities to issue a ban, he would comply with the decision.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.