LGBTQ+ In Morocco: A New Video Series To Open Minds

In a country where homosexuality is still penalized, the feminist LGBT+ group Nassawiyat launches a poetic and political video series to try to change conservative mindsets.

Screen capture of an episode of Moroccan LGBTQ+ feminist group Nassawiyat's "Homouna" YouTube series

Still from an episode of "Homouna"

Jane Roussel

"My hair has never been like others, people have always described it as ugly, frizzy..."

So begins "Nouwara," the first episode of the web series Homouna (which means "they/them," in reference to the pronoun used to designate a person who doesn't use she or he pronouns).

It's produced by the Moroccan LGBTQ+ feminist group Nassawiyat (meaning "feminist") and financed by an undisclosed backer. Posted on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook, Homouna tells the story of a queer woman in a patriarchal society.

"I always told myself that my skin color altered my beauty and that I needed to wear colors to make my face look lighter," says the voiceover, illustrated live by the hands of Rim C., a female cartoonist. The quotes are excerpted from 21 interviews conducted by Nassawiyat, which strive to tell the intimate history of members of the LGBTQ+ community in Morocco.

First episode of Homouna series: Nouwara

"Society and family have eyes everywhere"

The phrases that touch on self-esteem and the various injunctions of patriarchal society follow each other as the drawings gain color. The female body is always subject to discussion, to evaluation. "My relationship to my body has always been governed by the things I saw, experienced, or heard," says Nouwara.

The variations in one's weight, discussed in this first video, are not insignificant: They help reveal the way it affects mental health: "I eat a lot when I feel like it, and then I lose my appetite when I do not feel well mentally. When I lose weight, I feel really happy even though I can be in a very dark mental space."

As a logical continuation, control over a woman's body is connected to control over her life path, as the narrator's family critiques her physical appearance as much as the fact that she is still unmarried: It's not only important to remain a virgin before marriage to preserve the family's honor, but also to dress in a modest way, hiding one's body.

In the intimate life of Moroccan women, society and family have eyes everywhere, the story suggests. Many women feel like objects to be grasped rather than full human beings. To make everyone happy, except yourself, you stick to the rules, tick the boxes.

Another look at gender and sexuality

The illustrations help the series push the women out of their boxes, escape their obligations, as they describe themselves through the oppression of a system, with the drawing eventually unfolding to represent a liberated woman. The lines become more and more enlightened, accompanied by powerful words: "From now on, I make peace with myself, I am a beautiful woman, period." Episode 1 lasts only a few minutes but sounds like a short meditation session, with an undeniable poetry, which makes you want to discover the rest.

Prison for "licentious or unnatural acts toward a person of the same sex."

Nouwara does not only need to emancipate herself from her relationship to her body and the gaze of others. She also has a confession to make; she loves a woman and would like to be free to flaunt her homosexuality. Outside the fantasy world of animation, this is still impossible in Morocco, where the penal code charges up to three years of imprisonment for "licentious or unnatural acts toward a person of the same sex." In April 2020, a widespread campaign of outing homosexuality of many Moroccans shook the country.

Homouna aims precisely to raise awareness of the existence of this LGBTQ+ community, described as "vulnerable and resistant." Being a queer woman, being queer in the diaspora, being transgender, being intersex... each of the other four episodes bring together the testimonies of these Moroccans.

As many movements, documentaries, TV series and films around the world contribute to a broader look at women's bodies, gender diversity and sexuality issues, Nassawiyat wants this North African kingdom to play its part.

Jeune Afrique
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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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