Singer Lamjarred case reopens Morocco violence against women debate

Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred (C) is escorted by police officers at the courthouse in Aix-en-Provence on September 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Singer Lamjarred case reopens Morocco violence against women debate

  • Despite the string of allegations against him, the singer’s tunes have still been played on radio stations and Moroccan media have enthused over the release of his latest singles

RABAT: Still adored at home despite three separate rape charges in France, Moroccan pop star Saad Lamjarred’s latest arrest has reignited a debate on violence against women in the North African kingdom.
Following similar accusations in October 2016 and April 2017, Lamjarred was re-arrested last week in southern France on charges he had raped a woman in a Riviera hotel.
The superstar’s detention comes just days after Morocco was rocked by claims from a teenage girl, Khadija Okkarou, that she had been kidnapped and gang-raped by a group of men from her village.
Lamjarred’s detention has sparked a social media campaign seeking to ban his songs from Morocco’s airwaves using the hashtags #masaktach (“we will not be silenced“) and #LamjarredOut.
But the push has done little to dampen the popularity of the 33-year-old singer, whose hit “Lmaallem” has been viewed more than 660 million times on YouTube.
“The case of Saad Lamjarred is a symbol that brings together everything connected to rape culture and impunity,” said Laila Slassi, one of the campaign’s initiators.
Despite the string of allegations against him, the singer’s tunes have still been played on radio stations and Moroccan media have enthused over the release of his latest singles.
In August, he was prominently featured in a video of artists put out for the birthday of King Mohammed VI — who has helped cover the pop star’s legal fees.
Lamjarred’s fans remain convinced the singer, from a family of artists in the capital Rabat, is the target of a conspiracy and that his alleged victims seek to benefit from his fame.

“He’s famous, good looking, so we support him... it’s an emblematic case of sympathy for the aggressor in a society where we always find excuses for men,” psychologist Sanaa El Aji, a specialist in gender issues, told AFP.
Slassi said the media was “promoting a man accused of sexual violence” instead of role models.
Under pressure, Morocco’s Radio 2M has pulled Lamjarred from its airwaves, saying it “no longer promotes (the singer) since the case is in the hands of the judiciary.”
But Hit Radio, the kingdom’s most popular, was less clear about its stance.
The station’s head Younes Boumehdi initially said he would not broadcast the superstar’s hits, but quickly added the measure would only last until “things calm down.”
An on-air poll showed 68 percent of Hit Radio’s audience wanted to continue listening to the star, regardless of the charges.
Ultra-famous in the Arab world, Lamjarred “is still among the most popular on YouTube, and for many of his fans he will remain an icon, even if he is sentenced,” Boumehdi told AFP.
The case has sparked “a lot of emotion because Saad Lamjarred has the image of a modern man with a new message,” he said.
Radio Chada FM, which claims to be a leader in Morocco’s arts and music scenes, said it would not take Lamjarred off the air “until he has been tried, in the name of the presumption of innocence.”
But not everyone agrees.
“His song lyrics glorify male domination among couples... and the submission of the woman,” business leader Mehdi Alami wrote in a post shared widely on social media.

“It amounts to discrediting the word of women,” said rights activist Betty Lachgar.
Many like Lachgar have drawn comparisons between the #masaktach campaign and the global #metoo movement against sexual harassment.
But in Morocco, “most people don’t believe in this type of thinking, (for them), the harassers are the victims,” said El Aji.
Campaign organizer Slassi says the #masaktach movement gained momentum after the “Khadija affair.”
The 17-year-old was at the center of a storm last month after she accused a group of men from her village in central Morocco of having kidnapped, raped and tortured her over a two-month period.
Her 12 assailants have confessed to having imprisoned and raped her, and of threatening her with death, according to her lawyers.
“But for many, she remains the main culprit,” said Laila.


Royals Harry and Meghan go barefoot on Bondi

Despite morning fog, the pair met local surfers enjoying winter swells. (AP)
Updated 19 October 2018
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Royals Harry and Meghan go barefoot on Bondi

  • Pre-prepared signs screaming “G’day Harry and Meghan” greeted the royal couple

SYDNEY: British royals Harry and Meghan kicked off their shoes and donned tropical garlands Friday, as they hit Sydney’s famed Bondi beach for the latest stop on their Australian tour.
Expectant Meghan donned a summer dress, putting aside her high heels, while Harry ditched his usual suit for chinos as the couple lapped up cheers from Australian fans and enjoyed Bondi’s surf.
Despite morning fog, the pair met local surfers enjoying winter swells and sat down on the sand for a long chat with leaders of the OneWave group, which focuses on helping people improve mental health by getting outdoors.
Pre-prepared signs screaming “G’day Harry and Meghan” greeted the royal couple, who have received a warm welcome from fans throughout the start of their 16-day pacific tour.
While half of Australians oppose having British monarchs as head of state, and the vast majority of Australians have carried on with business as usual during the visit, there has been sizable support for the celebrity couple at every stop.
News that the Duchess of Sussex is pregnant has only made the crowds swell.
Amid a torrent of fawning press coverage declaring Meghan the “Queen of hugs” and the prince receiving “buckets of love,” the Australian Republican Movement is putting on a brave face.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very welcome visitors” the group said at the start of the trip, pointedly adding that “Australians of all ages know the difference between this wonderful event and the questions of our nation’s identity and future.”
In a 1999 referendum, 55 percent of Australians voted against replacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, although polls indicate support for republicanism has grown since then.
The opposition Labor party has promised a plebiscite on the issue if it wins a general election expected in 2019.