LGBTI+ communities around the world are under pressure from conservative, heteronormative, neoliberal and patriarchist governments. The global rise of right wing politics makes it ever more important to strengthen the transnational LGBTI+ and women’s rights movements. As a part of these efforts, we interviewed Nassawiyat initiative from Morocco and asked them about the current situation of LGBTI+ communities in Morocco.
-Thank you for taking time to answer our questions again. First of all, we would like to get to know the Nassawiyat team. When and how was your initiative formed? How does artivism play a role in your activism?
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, it is important for us to build an international solidarity network of the LGBTQAI+ community. Nassawiyat was created in 2018 in response to a strong desire to campaign for our visibility and our right to exist. We then thought of setting up an LBTQ+ collective where the word will be given to those who do not have it. We adopt an intersectional and feminist approach in our work and as a tool to fight against all forms of oppression. Through artivism we respond to a need for visibility of the Queer community in Morocco. As well as archiving and documenting committed Queer art.
-As some of our readers might know, homosexual relations are criminalized in Morocco, and so is publishing on homosexuality. What does this mean in practice for the LGBTI+ community, how is the law enforced? Is law an instrument against the feminist struggle as well?
In Morocco the laws are not very clear in relation to publicity about the LGBTQ+ cause. What is criminalised is same sex sexual intercourse. This is part of a series of laws that constrain individual liberties such as sexual relations outside of marriage, abortion rights, the right to eat in public spaces during Ramadan, etc….The law is a tool to criminalize activists and human rights activists in particular. These laws are used but not very frequently as they remain more as a tool of blackmail and condemnation.
-Discrimination against women and LGBTI+ communities often feed each other under heteronormative and sexist governmentality. Currently in Turkey we are experiencing an intense impunity against sexual violence and hate crimes against the LGBTI+ communities. In fact, we still do not have a law defining hate speech or hate crime. The law against “incitement of public towards hate” is often used against the LGBTI+ communities, punishing the victims of the hate speech rather than the perpetrator. How is the situation in Morocco with regards to the protection of the citizens who are LGBTI and womxn?
In 2016, the current Islamist PJD government (which is modeled on the Turkish government), introduced a law against discrimination based on gender, class and validity. This law is certainly not made to protect the LGBTQ+ community but can be used totally in this sense. However, the problem is as you say in the system. A person from the LGBTQ+ community or even a womxn survivor of violence doesn’t feel safe to go to the police as they are not prepared to deal with such complaints. I think this is a universal problem and the result of a misogynistic and sexist patriarchal system that always proves the cis men right.
– Recently, a Moroccan person nicknamed Naoufal Moussa outed gay individuals from her social media accounts, putting their lives at risk. As far as we know, her Instagram account is currently down, but what has happened since then? Were your demands from Instagram answered by the company? How has the community been coping with the situation?
We have seen a great surge of solidarity among the people in the community. We have been strengthened by what has happened and we have found ourselves putting in place several initiatives to impose our presence and our existence. Several groups were opened, people who were far from traditional classical activism mobilized to stop the spread of Sophia’s videos. Instagram responded after a few days as well as Facebook and Grinder with whom we cooperated.
– Do similar cases of outing LGBTI individuals happen, has it happened before?
Not on such a large scale, there are individual cases that have happened before but not on this scale and not in a situation of lockdown where people are with their parents and or family.
– Isolation is already a social experience for many womxn and LGBTI+ individuals, especially living in conservative, heteronormative and sexist contexts. The COVID19 outbreak means many LGBTI+ individiuals are isolated twice, having to spend time alone or in potentially risky family settings. The community ties which normally shelter and protect LGBTI+ individuals might be effected from the quarantine conditions. But we believe this ties are always strong and empowering. How is this playing out in Morocco? How is the community reaching out to the womxn and LGBTI+ communities? We saw that you provided some psychological counselling services, what are some of the activities of other grassroots organizations in Morocco?
At the moment we are working on two main projects:
– Nassawiy’ART: an open artistic platform for Queer people who use their arts as a medium to advocate for the human rights of LGBTQI+ people in Morocco. The goal of Nassawiy’ART is also to document and archive engaged queer art in order to contribute to the creation and reinforcement of queer discourses in Morocco. And at the same time, to work on the construction of an LGBTQI+ movement of Moroccan artists.
– The Trans Health Matter (THM) Project: The THM project aims to provide psychological and medical assistance to trans people undergoing hormone transition in Morocco, through counseling sessions with an expert in the field, as well as financial support to assist with medical health analyses for the beneficiaries, for a safe and secure hormone transition.
So we can conclude that civil society in Morocco is working on LGBTQI advocacy and women’s rights through direct services to respond to their needs and emergencies, and also through capacity building activities and movements in Morocco.
Civil society in Morocco remains a small movement with limited access to international resources and funding. Most organizations are currently working on their needs and organization in order to further expand work on the wider LGBTQI community and womxn.
– Last but not least, what are your opinions about the international feminist and LGBTI+ solidarity? What would be your expectations from the communities elsewhere and Turkey? How can our English-speaking and Turkish-speaking readers contribute local activism in Morocco?
We don’t have a concrete international solidarity actually on what is happening in Morocco. The only solidarity and collaboration we make are through the international gatherings and meetings to exchange on the situation in Morocco.
What we think will be useful as a first step to work on: -exchange about the situation of the community and womxn in Morocco as well as for as to know more about situations of the community in other countries- share and exchanges our challenges / needs -create linkages and collaboration with other organizations and civil society internationally.
The only connections we have/trying to create now are with other organizations regionally based in the Middle East and North Africa region, as well as organizations based in the African continent.
Interview by: Zeynep Serinkaya