‘Lesbian Diaries’: Fatima Zahra Amzkar Tackles Plight of Morocco’s LGBT Community
The young Moroccan writer Fatima Zahra Amzkar has launched her debut novel titled “Lesbian diaries,” which tackles the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in a conservative society like Morocco.
The novel is narrated through the perspective of a female character as she reflects on her life through a series of painful intimate events, including a rape incident, a failed marriage, and a divorce.
The novel, published by Dar Agora, a Tangier-based publishing house, sheds light on thedilemma of homosexuality -- especially how it is perceived in a society steeped in traditionalist and religious discourses about identity.
In her work, Amzkar unveils the hardship and the inner conflict and uncertainties the novel’s main character encounters or is exposed to as she navigates society’s gaze and expectations. Throughout the novel, the character is torn between her sexual identity, self-doubts, and the pressures of her family.
The story revolves around a girl named Tytyma who aims to break free from the persisting stigma to be able to accept her reality as a lesbian in a country that rejects homosexualityand considers it a taboo at best, and a shameful sin at worst.
‘I was born like this’
With “Lesbian Diaries” being her first novel, Amzkar stated in an exclusive interview with Morocco World News (MWN) that it took her three years to decide and write the plot of her novel.
“Through my novel, I wanted to share the unspoken and existing stories related to social issues, child marriage, and other problems that are prevalent in our society,” she said.
When asked about what inspired her to come up with the novel’s plot, Amzkar stressed that many people still have a wrong idea about LGBTQ+ and that she hopes to make the reader feel a sense of empathy towards minority groups.
“I went to hangout spots that are frequently visited by lesbians, and I wanted to share what I felt while listening to their stories,” she noted.
In an extract from the novel, originally in Arabic, the young author narrates the human cruelty and mistreatment in Sidi Rahal Al-Bodali Mausoleum. Many Moroccans believe that visiting mausoleums can help chase away the evil spirit.
The cover of the novel describes the experience as follow, “In front of me a black-bearded man, drinking hot water and blowing it, on his right, another man-eating glass, I heard a lot about Sidi Rahal Al-Bodali, and here I see the grandson of Boya Omar.”
“I eventually obeyed my grandmother and went with her. I wanted her to understand that there was no healing for my sores, no cure without intoxicating femininity.
“I'm a lesbian.
What does lesbianism mean, my daughter?
I have a sexual desire for women, not men.”
The girl did not resist her grandmother’s decision to take her to a mausoleum “to cure her” of her sexual orientation. “I obeyed her in her opinion, although I was sure that there was no cure for me other than to be what I am, to be a lesbian and for the world to know that I am a lesbian.”
She added, “My uncle thought that I was haunted by an evil spirit … I entered the shrine, I found everyone hitting their faces with the glass while screaming, I screamed with them, and I floated around the shrine, with the emotionally bankrupt like me, the orphans, the homeless…”
The story goes on to cover more poingnant ground, providing excrutiating details about the life of the main character and, by extesnion, the deprived lives of her society’s sexual misfits and other downtrodden frowned upon and rejected for deviating from societal convetions of manhood or womanhood.
“I remembered my rape, my marriage, my girlfriend who failed me, I screamed her name and behind me the bearded one says: ‘Haunted by female-desired spirit.’ I spent three days at the shrine, all the rituals I performed, I didn't discuss what they were doing to me, I wanted this play to end quickly, to be convinced that I was born like this.”
Homosexuality in Morocco
Religious and cultural values have been continuously used worldwide as a convenient pretext to disregard the rights of minority groups.
Many Moroccans from the LGBTQ+ community are afraid of “coming out of the closet” because the mental suffering can also translate to real-word violence as there is no concrete law in the country that ensures the protection of sexual minorities.
In fact, Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” Same-sex relations are heavily punished by up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to MAD 11,132 ($1200).
In a Memorandum published in October 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned laws prohibiting same-sex relations and urged Morocco to repeal article 489.
However, the Moroccan government rejected the recommendation to implement legislation that would protect people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Given the ongoing legal and societal barriers clouding the lives of Morocco’s LGBT community, several NGOs, activists, and civil society members call on the government to abolish the criminalization of homexuality.
Yet no political party in Morocco has made any public statements in favor of LGBT rights.
Most recently, the leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) Abdelilah Benkirane reaffirmed his party’s firm opposition to LGBT rights, emphasizing: “PJD will never treat homosexuals as if we were in Europe.” Citing a number of religious texts to justify his party’s uncompromising rejection of sexual minorities’ rights, Benkirane argued that homosexuality is un-Moroccan and un-Islamic.
While most Western countries have had several decades of LGBTQ+ advocacy, the battle in Morocco is still new, and despite constant calls from the international community to protect the rights of this minority, nothing has changed yet.
Comments powered by CComment