Moroccan police arrested outspoken journalist Soulaiman Raissouni May 22 after gay rights activist Adam Mohamed accused him of rape.
Rabat – Since the May 22 arrest of high-profile Moroccan journalist Soulaiman Raissouni for the violent sexual assault of LGBTQ activist Adam Mohamed in 2018, free-speech groups, far-left associations, and LGBTQ NGOs, to name a few, have entered a public debate, aiming to align the case with their own agendas. As the case grows ever murkier, it is becoming more difficult to ascertain who is the victim in this case: Raissouni or Mohamed?
The answer, however, is simple.
The victim, until proven otherwise through a fair and public trial, is Adam Mohamed. Attempted rape, regardless of the identity of the alleged perpetrator, is attempted rape. Attempted rape, regardless of the sexual orientation or the gender of the victim, remains attempted rape. And, regardless of the profession or status of the perpetrator, the assault must be investigated and treated as any other allegation of sexual assault would be in any other democratic country.
Why, then, are international rights groups seemingly so keen to dismiss Mohamed’s allegations as a means to silence journalist Raissouni? Why are international rights groups shining the spotlight on the Raissouni case as civil rights marches break out across the US? And why, amid calls from LGBTQ NGOs for solidarity with Mohamed, do human rights NGOs insist on dismissing the victim’s claims and advocating for the alleged perpetrator?
A politically motivated arrest?
“Raissouni has been targeted by a smear campaign,” tweeted Reporters Without Borders (FSF) after the journalist’s 6:20 p.m. arrest.
“We have fears this is another politically motivated case because it comes after a campaign targeting Soualiman’s reputation,” said Moroccan human rights activist Khadija Riadi.
Vigilance for Democracy, meanwhile, wrote: “[We] call for an end to the fabrication of criminal cases as a tool to silence journalists and human rights activists as well as criminalize freedom of expression and the press.”
These human rights advocates, among countless others, leaped immediately to the conclusion that 24-year-old Mohamed had fabricated the allegations at the behest of the Moroccan authorities.
When Britain’s Prince Andrew faced similar accusations from a young woman few questioned the veracity of the victim’s claims, nor did the international press question whether Donald Trump really committed the acts of sexual assault attributed to him. Why then, now that the case is in Morocco and not the West, is it so easy to dismiss the claims of sexual assault?
Soulaiman Raissouni’s arrest comes months after the arrest, trial, and subsequent pardon of his niece Hajar Raissouni for an alleged illegal abortion. Hajar is also a journalist at Akhbar Al-Youm, where her uncle is the editor.
Prior to Hajar Raissouni’s arrest, Moroccan police arrested and charged former Akhbar Al-Youm publisher Taoufik Bouachrine for “trafficking in human beings, violent and indecent assault, rape, attempted rape and sexual harassment.”
In 2019, Bouachrine’s legal team appealed his 12-year sentence. The appeal was unsuccessful and he now faces another three years in prison.
All three journalists categorically denied the charges against them and advocacy groups continue to campaign in their favor. One would not be blamed for jumping to conclusions given the above facts, but that would not be fair to Adam Mohamed or to the plight of sexual abuse victims all over the world.
Surely, a little time spent considering the case more closely would not be wasted?
Stigma and marginalization
Akhbar Al-Youm is seen as the most vocal opposition print media in Morocco and often aligns with the policies of Morocco’s more Islamist-leaning political parties. Raissouni’s legal team’s first line of defense was to turn the prosecutors on the alleged victim.
Lawyer Abdelmoula El Marouri went so far as to call for Mohamed’s arrest under Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code for “bragging” about his LGBTQ identity. The lawyer has also questioned why Mohamed did not speak out sooner about the alleged rape.
“Was the complaint accepted by a person who was bragging about being homosexual… Who claimed he had been subject to an attempted rape? Who should be arrested? In which country is this happening?” El Marouri published on Facebook.
Considering the taboo nature of sexuality in Morocco and the fact that the country’s penal code prohibits homosexual relations, the answer is no surprise. Mohamed claims he was afraid of the backlash that would face him for speaking publicly about his sexuality. And, bearing in mind the reaction of Raissouni’s defense lawyer, is that so unbelievable?
Adam Mohamed alleges that in 2018 Soulaiman Raissouni violently assaulted him and attempted to rape him. Mohamed claims that the incident took place in Raissouni’s Casablanca apartment and that the journalist “held him there against his will.”
Mohamed was 22 years old at the time of the alleged incident, while Raissouni was a man of influence and means. Who, Mohamed may have asked himself, would believe him over the professional, respected journalist?
Would he face prosecution for homosexual intercourse too? He may have wondered.
The need for unbiased judgment
A number of LGBTQ rights organizations have spoken out in solidarity with Mohamed, calling for the case to be considered on its merits rather than as a political move.
Tunisian LGBTQ NGO Mawjoudin released a press release calling for fair treatment of Mohamed. The statement condemns the “hate speech” he has been subject to since making his allegations public.
The statement claims that Raissouni “abused power” by using the influence of his newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum, political parties, and human rights and Islamist groups to “silence” Mohamed.
Describing him as a “victim and a survivor,” Mawjoudin demands a fair trial for Mohamed and professional and ethical media treatment of the case in order to “preserve the safety and dignity of the complainant.”
The statemet comes after Mohamed finally spoke out on May 17.
“Today, I want to expose the issue of sexual and physical harassment and an attempted sexual assault that I was exposed to by the end of 2018,” he wrote on Facebook.
“The assailant is a well-known figure, the founder of a well-known news site. I was invited by his wife to work on a project dealing with LGBT in Morocco. This lady was a friend of mine and I did not know her intentions before the start of the project,” the post continued.
Whether these are Mohamed’s own words or put in his mouth to silence Raissouni is a matter for a fair and public trial, and not a matter for public debate or condemnation at the hands of organizations that claim to advocate for the rights of all people.
Both Raissouni and Mohamed deserve to be heard, to share their truth, and to be treated with respect and dignity. And, above all, both deserve to speak and be listened to without the prejudice that comes with a case involving not only a high-profile journalist, but also a homosexual in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.
In questioning who is the real victim in the Soulaiman Raissouni case, consider the following: If a 24-year-old boy of Western origins said he had been abused and traumatized by an older man in a position of power, would you advocate for him or his attempted rapist?