A new campaign aimed at tackling sexual harassment has launched in Morocco, in the aftermath of a spate of high-profile sexual assaults in the country.
Masaktach, meaning "I will not be silent", has been described as Morocco's version of the #MeToo movement, by encouraging women to be vocal about their experiences of abuse in the North African Kingdom.
The movement started following media reports of a girl, identified only as Khadija, who revealed that she had been kidnapped by a gang in June and held for two months, during which she was repeatedly raped, tortured and forcibly tattooed. Footage of Khadija showed expletives, crude drawings and even swastikas tattooed across her body alongside cigarette burns and bruises, prompting public outrage.
Zineb Belmkaddem, one of the organisers behind #Masaktach, said the campaign was subsequently started to show solidarity with other Moroccan women who were subject to male sexual violence: "We began the campaign to raise the voices of women and point to how they had been either ignored or silenced and even attacked."
— Masaktach (@masaktach) October 11, 2018
"The group is comprised of members with rich and eclectic professional backgrounds," she said. "First and foremost, we hope to raise the voices of women as equals and of women survivors so they, too, can be heard."
The movement gained further momentum when Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred was arrested for the third time on charges of sexual assault and rape in the south of France. Women took to social media protesting against the star, who has previously walked away from allegations relatively unscathed and enjoys the support of Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
"It's via the hashtag #Masaktach that hundreds of tweets have called Moroccan radio stations, Hit Radio in the lead, to stop broadcasting the songs of the pop star," a member of the campaign said.
Since starting last month, Masaktach has gained thousands of social media followers, with scores of women using the hashtag to recount their experiences of being harassed and stalked, often as children or young teenagers. On Sunday, many also used the platform to raise awareness of two rapes committed within 24 hours, with videos of the attacks having been uploaded to social media.
2 rape videos in less than 24 hours — In one of the videos you can hear the victim beg her assaulters to stop, they boys joke about how to rape her and tell the girl if she gives them 200 Dirham ($20) they'll stop. She cries and tells them she doesn't have it. #Masaktach https://t.co/oTDe8TcDtP
— Boutaïna Azzabi Ezzaouia (@Boutaina) October 21, 2018
According to Morocco's National Human Rights Council in 2015, more than 20 per cent of Moroccan women have been sexually abused at least once in their lives, with three quarters of women experiencing some form of sexual harassment in public.
Earlier this year, Morocco passed a law criminalising abuse against women, including all "acts considered forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment", but the bill was criticised for failing to mention the problem of marital rape and aspects of the Family Law which sets women as at disadvantage.
Whilst Masaktach has been compared to the #MeToo movement, Belmkaddem sees the significance of the campaign in Morocco as far broader.
"There's an intersection between #Masaktach and #MeToo regarding speaking up publicly and raising the voices of survivors of sexual assault and rape," she explained. "But #Masaktach has a scope that is wider and aims at raising the voices of Moroccan women be [they] survivors or women speaking up against other forms of inequality."