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May 13, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Women’s rights threatened in Morocco as Salafists assault, strip woman

 | 12 May 2012

Women’s rights in Morocco have come under the spotlight recently after a young woman was assaulted in a Rabat market by people she called “Salafists,” or ultra-conservative Islamists. She said she was accosted by the men because of the short dress she was wearing.

Other witnesses were reported by the Magharebia news portal as saying the girl was attacked with stones and beaten after the assailants said the dress was “too revealing.”

Human rights and women’s organizations issued statements denouncing the assault on the Moroccan girl, during which she was stripped of her clothes entirely, reports indicated.

Young Moroccan men and women turned to Facebook and online groups to call for protection of individual freedoms in Morocco, including the group “Débardeur and I am fine.”

“Though this incident appeared in the media and gained wider attention, that does not mean it is not repeated on an almost regular or semi-daily basis in all the alleys and streets of our cities. It may not end in stripping the girl of her clothing, but the verbal and physical harassment that women may experience is sometimes more heinous and horrible,” said Nora Al-Fuari, an activist journalist at the Al-Sabah daily and a member of the Facebook group.

“From here came the idea of creating this page on Facebook, which we made open to everyone, including those in hijab or niqab, or the ‘coarse’ males who share the same vision with us. The selection of Débardeur is just a symbol, in reference to freedom—the freedom of women to wear what they want. Débardeur was mother of the ‘short skirt’,” she added. “In the end, the body is her body and no one has the right to confiscate it.”

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane responded to the controversy by speaking out in defense of personal liberties.

“I believe in freedom, God created us free,” the prime minister said. “Who is Benkirane to tell Moroccans to shave your beards or to impose the hijab? Individual liberties are sacred and are not to be touched,” he added.

It has highlighted once again the growing conservative nature across the Middle East, which has women’s groups and women worried that they are being pushed aside and attacked due to their gender.

BM

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