Going against the advice of the authorities, a Moroccan association is organising a conference on homosexuality in Marrakesh.
Moroccan society might be on the move, but the government is finding it hard to follow. In February a French feminist NGO called Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissive) was banned from setting up a branch in the country, causing outrage amongst activists. Today, it's a homosexual association that's in trouble. Members of "Kifkif" (which literally means "same same" in both Arabic and in French slang), are attempting to get homosexuality recognised in Moroccan society. The organisation, based in Spain, is planning a conference in Marrakesh on April 15. In response, the minister of the interior has sworn to fight all acts which "aim to undermine our religious and moral values", adding that the authorities and the police will be on watch to repress any "demonstration of an immoral nature".
Kifkif however plans to go ahead with the conference... even if it has to take place behind closed doors.
UPDATE (27 March 09 - 4pm Paris time): The Kifkif website has been hacked. The homepage has been replaced by verses from the Koran, accompanied with a photo of a mass hanging. The message in Arabic: "Do this kind of thing and expect to be castigated by god".
"The law has no right to interfere in what people get up to in bed"
Samir Barkachi is a member of the Kifkif association.
Our association is prohibited by Moroccan law on the grounds of sexual tendencies. So in Morocco we're specifically working on subjects linked to sexuality - our aim is to increase public awareness of the subject. Law 489 prevents us from doing more; it condemns homosexuality. It's a dangerous law that was put in place by France. We're demanding it be revised. The law has no right to interfere with what people get up to in bed.
We currently have 50 active members of Kifkif in Morocco and 500 abroad. In Morocco, even tolerant people don't like the idea of being involved with a gay association. Our Marrakesh meeting on April 15 aims to change this pejorative attitude towards homosexuality. It's a small meeting but we aim to make ourselves heard. We're going to talk about sex - in Morocco there's no sex education.
The choice of city comes down to accessibility - there's an international airport in Marrakesh. For now the location of the meeting has to be kept secret for security reasons. All I can say is that it will be in a private residence.
It's not Islam that's the problem. Islam is a very tolerant religion. I'm a believer and there are many gay Muslims in Morocco. Even some religious figures are gay. Personally, I ask myself how god, who made me gay, could punish me for what he himself gave me. I didn't choose to be gay."
Kifkif behind the anti-gay marriage riots in 2007