Despite Islamist hostility and a restrictive legal climate, homosexuals in Morocco are publishing a magazine that covers issues in their community and beyond.

Posted by Richard Ammon

May 27, 2010

By Imane Belhaj
Magharebia News

[] Magazine Mithly (Gay) published its first edition in April but has not applied for a government li

In a move that probes the limits of freedom of expression in Morocco, a group of gays and lesbians is working to raise their community’s profile by publishing a trail-blazing magazine.

The gay organisation Kif Kif (We are Similar) released a limited number of copies of the first edition of Mithly (Gay) in April, without applying for a government licence that they claim would have been denied.

“We didn’t submit a formal application; we knew it would be rejected,Mithly staff member Karim S., who asked that his last name be withheld to protect his privacy, told Magharebia.

“Before, all of us were banned–not to mention the magazine”, said the journalist. “But we’re aware that we need more struggle, persistence and time.”

“Only 200 copies of the first edition were released in April to a number of interested people and advocates for freedom of intellectual, ideological and sexual choices,” he added. “Currently, it’s not at news kiosks, though we can offer it online pending a suitable form for print distribution.”

Moroccan laws make homosexuality a crime punishable by six months to three years imprisonment and a fine, Samir Bergachi, who founded Kif Kif in 2004, told on May 4th. The country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and intersex people, whose rights Kif Kif was set up to protect, also face widespread hostility from Islamists.

A Ministry of Communication source who asked to remain anonymous told Magharebia that the ministry had not received a license application for Mithly.

The source also said that refusing to give a distribution license to a magazine for gays and lesbians does not constitute any breach of law or suppression of the right to expression, but the law bans any publication that violates public ethics and morals.

Despite the obstacles, Kif Kif is determined to press on, Samir S. said. If the magazine does not obtain official permission to go to print, the staff will resort to online publishing.

For now, Mithly has been distributed in a quasi-secret fashion in northern cities in particular, and does not appear at kiosks in major cities such as Casablanca or Rabat.

Although it is a magazine for all gay Moroccans and Arabs, Samir S. said, Mithly will carry news, cultural items, literary works and interviews with famous figures that interest a wide audience.

Despite such plans for bridge-building, Mithly is already encountering public opposition.

The personal liberty of homosexuals is their own affair, but to publicly display their sexual orientation threatens society’s values, Mustapha Khalfi, a member of the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party, told the local press last week.

Another Islamist, Mohammed Najid, told the press that preventing Mithly from being issued may “protect” gays and lesbians, since no one can predict society’s reaction to the new publication.

A student contacted by Magharebia, Fouad Noune, said Mithly was more dangerous than a mere magazine. “It’ll be a source of ideas inviting moral disintegration and licentiousness, and our society today is infested with a lot of deviance and doesn’t need more,” said Noune.

But another student, Bouchra Hanine, told Magharebia: “You can’t talk about freedom of expression in Morocco if we’re denying a group of people the right to express their suffering and problems. Why not open the door to them in order to learn about their perspectives and ideas and what pushed them toward this different orientation, so we can understand them before making pre-judgments?”

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