A Moroccan girl was kidnapped and sold to a gang who raped and forcibly tattooed before she was dumped back at her family home after two months.
The extreme violence against the 17-year-old, called Khadija, has sparked outrage in Morocco since a video was posted online showing her arms, leg and neck covered in tattoos and cigarette burns.
Since she told authorities she was released in mid-August protesters have taken to social media to demand justice with the slogan: ‘We are all Khadija’.
Speaking at the family home in Oulad Ayad, near Beni Melal, central Morocco, her mother said she fainted when she saw her daughter’s desecrated body.
The extreme violence against the 17-year-old, called Khadija (pictured), has sparked outrage in Morocco since a video was posted online showing her arms, leg and neck covered in tattoos
Tattoo marks the hand on a 17-year-old Moroccan girl who told police she was gang-raped, forcibly tattooed and held against her will for two months, in Oulad Ayad
In an interview with Moroccan TV last week, the girl alleged that her kidnappers ‘would assault me one by one,’ burned her and didn’t feed her or let her shower.
She displayed crude swastikas and other tattoos as well as cigarette burns on her hands and legs.
The teen said that two men kidnapped her at knife-point when she was visiting her aunt during the May-June holy month of Ramadan, before selling her to other men in exchange for money or drugs. She said her captors gave her drugs that knocked her out for days at a time.
The horrific account has sparked calls for an end to a culture that turns a blind eye to sexual assault and other violence against women, with nearly 75,000 people signing a petition urging action.
Twelve suspects are in custody in the alleged kidnapping and rape, and three are still at large, according to Ibrahim Hashane, a volunteer lawyer who is pressing the case.
He said on Wednesday that an examining judge had ordered an investigation and a hearing was scheduled for September 6.
Tattoo marks on the girl’s leg, after she was held against her will for two months, near Beni Melal, central Morocco. The girl’s lawyer says authorities have arrested 12 suspects
She said: ‘I was caught off guard when those criminals brought my daughter and I saw her in this condition.
‘I fainted … I collapsed, seeing her like that, the tattoos, the burns, her honor lost.’
The mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘Why did they do this to my child? Are they beasts? Will my daughter ever return to the way she was?’.
The girl’s parents initially refused to report her case to authorities, fearing the social stigma of sexual abuse in a Muslim country.
‘But she insisted,’ her mother said. ‘She picked up the family records and just went to the gendarmes. I followed her.’
In an article titled ‘We are all Khadija,’ Moroccan author and filmmaker Abdellah Taïa, criticized what he called Morocco’s rape culture and called on the government and King Mohammed VI to intervene. It was signed by dozens of Moroccan intellectuals.
‘We will move on. A new source of collective excitement. Nothing will be done,’ he wrote. ‘And as always, it is women who pay the price of all the dysfunctions of a society that still does not want to grow.’
A general view of Oulad Ayad town, near Beni Melal, central Morocco where the 17-year-old Moroccan girl told police she was gang-raped, forcibly tattooed and held against her will
Abdelwahed Saadi, a social worker and neighbor of the teen’s family, said no circumstances could excuse the alleged assault.
‘This girl is a minor. She says she has been abused and raped. Her words must be taken seriously,’ he said.
Concern about sexual violence gained momentum last year when video footage circulated online of boys on a bus ripping the clothes off a girl and groping her breasts, among other abuse. Neither the passengers nor the bus driver intervened.
In February, parliament passed a long-sought law recognizing some forms of abuse for the first time and criminalizing some forms of domestic violence. But critics say it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
A survey by U.N. Women, a United Nations agency for the empowerment of women, carried out in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, and in some neighboring cities found that 41 per cent of the men surveyed believe that financial support justified marital rape.
Over 50 per cent reported having been emotionally abusive to their wives, and 15 percent acknowledged using physical violence against women.
The survey, conducted in 2016 and released in February, found that 62 per cent of the men interviewed believe women must tolerate violence to preserve family unity. The study questioned 2,400 men and women over three months. No margin of error was given.
Twelve suspects are in custody in the alleged kidnapping and rape, and three are still at large, according to Ibrahim Hashane (pictured), a volunteer lawyer who is pressing the case