Observers

Four different videos showing a group of men attacking a transgender woman in Bamako, Mali's capital, have been circulating on social media in the West African country over the past few weeks. The footage, filmed in the middle of the day, shows the victim being beaten and forced to undress in public. This violent scene illustrates the risks faced by LGBT people living in Mali.

One of the four videos was more widely circulated than the others. This video alone garnered more than 300,000 views on Facebook.

The video shows a group of men speaking Bambara, one of the main languages in Mali]. They are insulting a transgender woman. At one point, they force her to undress.

The FRANCE 24 Observers spoke to numerous sources, including AREFM, an organisation that fights for the rights of transgender people in Mali; the manager of the Cotton Club nightclub, which is located near the scene of the incident; and police sources. All indicated that the incident had taken place behind the club, located in Bamako’s Hippodrome neighbourhood, at around 9am on September 14.

“I heard the attack from my office and I told my employees to go and help the victim,” the owner of the Cotton Club told The FRANCE 24 Observers. “But by the time they arrived, she was running away. They said that she seemed to be injured. Her leg and her forearm were bleeding,”

Footage of the attack started circulating on Facebook and WhatsApp on September 16, and have continued to get new shares since.

An excerpt from this video was posted on September 16 on the page "L.c.h.m Chico 223”. This page is full of violent videos and hateful messages towards the LGBT community.

The acronym LCHM, which stands for the Fight Against Homosexuality in Mali, links to a wide number of pages and profiles, which also seem to be opposed to homosexuality. When contacted by FRANCE 24, one of the administrators of the page "L.c.h.m Chico 223", who calls himself “Chico”, replied that he had no direct contact with the attackers shown in the video.




When he posted the video on Facebook, “Chico” wrote: “She/he got what he deserved, that’s what you needed, milou. Those who want to see the full video should send me a direct message.”

In most of the videos that Chico posted on this page, he refers to LGBT people as “milou”.


Four videos showing two attacks

In total, four different videos circulated on WhatsApp. These videos show the same woman being attacked at two different times. The first assault took place on September 14, while the second occurred several days later. In total, there are only three minutes and thirteen seconds of footage.

The FRANCE 24 Observers team decided not to publish these videos, out of respect for the victim and because of their extremely violent nature. We have included several screengrabs of the videos, which we have blurred to conceal her identity.

WARNING: SOME READERS MAY FIND THE FOLLOWING IMAGES SHOCKING

 
The attackers screamed homophobic insults at the victim, who says, “I’m not gay!” and pleads for mercy: “For the love of God, keep me from this shame!” When one of the attackers asks, “What led you to this? How could you become gay?”, the victim responds that she is an “orphan” who lost both of her parents.


The second video, which lasts 43 seconds, shows what happens next. The victim is lying on the ground, naked and covered with dirt and blood. Two men are beating her with an iron bar and a whip.

The attackers continue to insult her, yelling, “damnation!” and “look at this son of the damned!”

According to our sources on the ground, after the attack, the victim was treated at the Gabriel Touré Hospital in Bamako after the attack. The FRANCE 24 Observers team tried to get a confirmation from the hospital, but they did not respond to our repeated queries. We will update this article if we get a response from them.

Death threats
 

The second two videos show the same victim, who, this time, is wearing a different outfit. She has several bruises on her face and her right arm.

Several different men hurl insults at her and threaten to kill her. At one point, they dump an unidentified liquid on her face. At the same time, a man yells out, “throw a match!” which indicates that it may have been a flammable liquid.

Several people make death threats. One asks, "Where can we find a river so we can kill him?"

Widespread transphobia and homophobia

The FRANCE 24 Observers team was unable to get in touch with the victim. We contacted several people who are part of the LGBT community in Mali as well as those who have connections to the community. All of them indicated that they didn’t want to take the risk of commenting on the rampant transphobia and homophobia in Mali.

READ MORE ON THE OBSERVERS: “A witch hunt for homosexuals in Mali: One victim's story”

The Bamako police told the FRANCE 24 Observers that they had opened an investigation on September 17 in hopes of tracking down the perpetrators of this attack.

There is no law in Mali against consensual sexual relations between adults of the same gender. However, there is no law to protect members of the LGBT community from violence or discrimination. According to a 2007 report by the Pew Research Center, 98% of Malians think that “homosexuality is unacceptable".

“Since 2017, around a hundred different videos showing transgender people being insulted or beaten have circulated on social media”

We spoke to a member of the Malian human rights association ARESM, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

In Mali, violence and insults make up part of daily life for transgender people as well as for the rest of the LGBT community. Since 2017, we’ve flagged about a hundred different videos showing transgender people being insulted or beaten.

After being subjected to these kinds of physical attacks and public shaming, most transgender people flee the scene and hide. Because of this, we usually don’t hear from victims until several weeks or several months after they are attacked.
 

In this extremely hostile environment, members of the LGBT community often decide not to live hidden lives – or leave the country entirely. Diaby Balla, a member of the LGBT community in Mali, received death threats in 2017 and fled to the Ivory Coast. But once there, in May 2017, Balla was attacked by a group of Malians.

“I was lucky to escape but I had several bruises. Luckily, nothing serious,” he told he FRANCE 24 Observers. “I knew from their accents that they were Malians.”



This article was written by Liselotte Mas (@liselottemas).