Moroccan girl sparks national outcry with video detailing sexual abuse

Girl, 13, sparks outcry with video detailing physical and sexual abuse involving multiple family members and neighbours in Morocco

  • The teenager claimed her uncle was raping her from the age of eight years old 
  • She also claimed that a neighbour later raped her, and got just one year in prison
  • Her now viral video first surfaced online on Friday, shocking many in Morocco
  • It has led to many in the country questioning its soft treatment of sex offenders
  • An NGO has said that 24,000 children are sexually abused each year in Morocco 

A Moroccan teenager has sparked outcry with a video detailing shocking physical and sexual abuse involving multiple family members and neighbours.

The 13-year-old girl has claimed that her uncle raped her from the age of eight after her parents divorced, leaving her without the protection of her mother.

She also claimed in the video that more recently, her neighbour also raped her, and only received a one-year prison sentence for the crime.

The video first surfaced online on Friday, February 26, and while the girl’s story remains largely unconfirmed, the story has shocked the North African kingdom, leading many to question its soft treatment of child sex offenders. 

In the 12 minutes of footage posted to a fringe Facebook page, the girl from the city of Fes is shown crying as she describes being held prisoner by grandmother, father and uncle, who she claims initially also locked her mother up in the same house. 

A 13-year-old girl has claimed that her uncle raped her from the age of eight after her parents divorced, leaving her without the protection of her mother. Picutred: A still grab from the video in which the Moroccan teenager has made the accusations

She says that she once lived happily with her parents in the house that was also home to her grandparents on her father’s side, along with her uncle.

But her situation changed when, she claims, her mother lost her memory. 

The girl’s ordeal is believed to have taken place over the course of several years, since she was eight years old, with the story gaining traction after her uncle was reportedly set free by a Moroccan judge.

The mother – who divorced the girl’s father approximately five years earlier – is believed to be suffering from mental health issues. 

The girl said she then returned to the same house, which became the site of the abuse at the hands of her uncle, and she was no longer afforded the protection of her father under normal Islamic traditions.

‘He used to abuse me all the time, and one day he did what he did and there was blood,’ the girl said.

Whilst in the house, she felt abandoned and vulnerable after the divorce and was left under the guardianship of her grandmother, she said. Her father also found a new wife, who became her stepmother.

According to the now-viral video, it was the girl’s grandmother who initially allowed her uncle to enter her room and rape her repeatedly – and who threatened to kill her if she spoke about the habitual abuse.

‘She told me that she was going to cut my tongue if I told someone,’ the girl says of her grandmother, who she claims allegedly hit her several times with a stick. 

To this day, the girl says she does not know the fate of her missing mother and worries that she has been killed.

During the five years the girl claims she was being raped by her uncle, she also says that a next-door neighbour raped her when she was 12, when she knocked on his door to complain about the level of noise.

The incident is believed to have taken place just once and was in front of two other male family members who watched but did not participate.

She was humiliated by the neighbour who she claims used a vegetable to violate her, which later had to be removed by surgery. 

The neighbour’s mother, she says, came to the girl’s family home and bribed the girl’s stepmother to not tell anyone of what had happened in an attempt to save her son from prosecution.

The neighbour was handed a one-year prison sentence, the girl says, yet no such sentence has been given to the uncle.

According to photos appearing on the internet (pictured), the girl recently tried to commit suicide upon hearing that her uncle had walked free out of the court. It is believed that she jumped from a balcony and sustained a number of facial injuries, although the precise date of the incident is unclear

She said that she did not feel the sentence was enough, adding: ‘I didn’t have a mother to defend my rights in court and assist me in my struggle.’ 

Instead, the uncle was released by the judge who presided over the rape case, which is understood to have fallen apart due to questionable evidence.

The girl is currently being protected by a women’s rights group in the ancient city of Fes in the north of the country, where she is still living. 

The group takes in women who have fled beatings at home or other cruel acts. 

According to photos appearing on the internet, she recently tried to commit suicide upon hearing that her uncle had walked free out of the court.

It is believed that she jumped from a balcony and sustained a number of facial injuries, although the precise date of the incident is unclear.

What is clear however, is her story, which has almost over 100,000 interactions on Facebook from angry Moroccans, has shocked a nation which had until now grown desensitised to such harrowing accounts of child rape in recent years.

‘Where we live, or with whom we live, we are afraid to leave our young girls with our family members…’ commented Maryem El Bachir on Facebook. ‘Uncle paternal rape, maternal uncle rape, neighbours rape. Where is the protection?’ she asks.

However, mainstream media outlets have been reluctant to report on the story, due to fear from financial reprisals from the state which subsidises them.

One organisation, however, called ‘Touche Pas a Mes Enfants’ (‘Hands Off My Child’), is a strong critic of the government, and claims that paedophilia is growing at an alarming rate in Morocco, with 24,000 cases each year. Pictured: A spokeswoman from Hands Off My Child speaks to the media

This has forced the girl the to turn to a number of small, alternative media sites which are more willing to cover such stories.

‘I didn’t know how to complain initially as it started from the age of seven or eight’ she explained in an interview with Achewakeaa TV on Saturday, February 27. 

‘I ask just for my rights’ she told the presenter.

There is little sign that the authorities will listen to her demands that the uncle’s case is retried, with a number of Moroccans hinting in posts on social media that the government cares little about such cases.

A number of child protection NGOs operate in Morocco, but many are also under strict control of the state, with some accusing them of receiving government subsidies. 

One organisation, however, called  ‘Touche Pas a Mes Enfants’ (‘Hands Off My Child’), is a strong critic of the government, and claims that paedophilia is growing at an alarming rate in Morocco, with 24,000 cases each year.

Najia Adib, the president of the NGO, explained that the problem is not the law itself, but how it is applied, hinting at where money is changing hands, but stopping short of making accusations of corruption.

‘The judgement was way too lenient and this actually encourages paedophilia here in Morocco. One year is nothing.’ she said.

‘It’s the judges. They are not honest… it’s shameful. Our organisation will be pushing for a much heavier sentence’ she added.

‘The law is not applied as it should be as the two legal articles state that the judgement must be between 10 and 20 years but in the case of a family member, the sentence is 30 years.

‘Explain to me how it is possible for someone to get one year prison sentence’ she said, referencing the girl’s neighbour who allegedly raped her.

The girl is currently being protected by a women’s rights group in the ancient city of Fes in the north of the country (pictured, file photo), where she is still living. The group takes in women who have fled beatings at home or other cruel acts

Morocco struggles to balance its traditional Islamic culture with its more modern inclinations, and has in recent years faced ghastly stories of children being raped, often by family members. 

In many cases, the perpetrators were given very light sentences and in some cases even walked free. 

Furthermore, a number of cases involving Europeans has drawn fury after light sentencing and even pardons by the King. 

The numbers of traumatic crimes involving paedophilia have shocked the Moroccan public in recent years and are believed by many to be on the rise, due to the judiciary system being too soft on perpetrators or, in some cases, taking bribes.

In September of last year, the nation was shocked to learn of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old at the hands of a 24-year-old in Tangier, which sparked a new wave of calls for the death penalty to be reinstated for rapists and murderers of children. 

It is currently unclear exactly where the girl from the video is in Fes, and many Moroccans have suggested that she needs to go into hiding now. 

Najia Adib will try and locate her and investigate her story, but fears for her safety in a country where Islamic fanatics often take the law in their own hands. 

Her video, many fear, will make her a target of men who will see her as an easy target for even more harassment and worse, possibly, even to harm her.

‘She’s in real danger now’ Lucie Allingrie of the Association Amane, an NGO which also protects women and children from sexual violence, said.

A number of local news outlets have said that security services have launched investigations into the girl’s case.

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