Sama is 30 years old. She is physically transitioning and undergoing hormone treatment. She arrived in France at the end of 2018 and applied for asylum. She ran away from Morocco because she was facing persecution. She was imprisoned for three months in Boulmharez due to her gender identity. She lives as a woman and identifies as a woman.
We met her in her new home in Lyon.
Prisoners threw me to the ground, some urinated on my face. Then several of them raped me.
Prison Insider: Here we are on the terrace of a bar close to your home, in downtown Lyon. What happened at your home this morning?
Sama.THIS MORNING, I was asleep in my apartment in Lyon, when I was startled from my sleep at the sound of my smoke detector. There were flames on my landing when I opened the entrance door. Someone had set fire to a heap of cartons in front of my door. I was so scared. I had no idea who could have done that, but I have to link it to the continuous death threats from one of my neighbours. The other day, he pointed a knife at me, saying: “be a good Muslim, or else, I will kill you!”. Following the fire this morning, I called the police and I decided to file a complaint.
Do you think that these threats and the fire on your doorstep are similar to what you went through in Morocco, which eventually forced you to leave your country?
S. Truly, I see the same hatred here in France as in Morocco. The only difference is that in Morocco, those who persecute lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people have the law on their side. According to article 489 of the Moroccan criminal code, those who commit, I quote: “indecent acts or acts against human nature with an individual of same sex” are liable to between 6 months and three years in prison.
I have experienced this persecution from the state, because I was arrested and imprisoned due to my sexual orientation. Because I am a transgender woman.
When and in what circumstances were you arrested in Morocco?
S. I was arrested in my city in Marrakesh in December 2014. That fateful evening, I had dinner in town and was waiting for a taxi to go back home. Suddenly, I was brutally arrested by the police, who forced me into their vehicle without any explanation. They seized my phone to stop me from contacting anyone. While in the vehicle, they constantly yelled homophobic insults like “you gays, you have invaded Morocco” and even “we are going to burn you all”. Later, I was placed in custody and locked up with about twenty other offenders and criminals. I screamed “I am a woman, do not lock me up with them!”
Prisoners threw me to the ground, some urinated on my face. Then several of them raped me. It happened under the watch of warders, who did nothing. For two days, I had nothing to eat nor drink. Any time I asked for water, they told me: “You can rot, you gay!”
“If you do not sign, we will smash your face in!” And he slapped me hard.
Can you describe your prison cell?
S. I was locked in a cellar of the police station, a room of about 20m², with a stinky toilet in one corner. It was dark, there were no lights and it was very dirty. There was no mattress for sleeping. When I was not being harassed by the other prisoners, I just curled myself up on the floor, close to the door.
I spent fifty hours in custody in these conditions, including three hours with the police officer who wrote my so-called statement
His first question was “are you active or passive?” I told him I did not understand his question, and he said: “no problem, we will help you”. He wrote whatever he wished and asked me to sign it at the end. At first, I refused. But I was threatened by him and three other police officers in the room: “If you do not sign, we will smash your face in!” And he slapped me hard. I felt my head spin with the third slap. I was scared. So, I signed a statement without even reading it. I later realised that he wrote that I admitted to homosexual relations, which are punishable by the Moroccan law.
What happened next?
S. I was transferred to Boulmharez prison and locked up, again with only male prisoners. There were about thirty criminals. Some were charged with murder, others with sexual crimes. They used to steal my food and threatened to starve me to death if I refused to have sex with them. I was raped every day for three months by my fellow prisoners and sometimes by the warders. I was treated like a slave. I am still traumatised by what I went through.
My grandfather had to pay a bribe of over €6,000 for my release.
What was the prison’s hygiene and sanitation like?
S. You needed to register with the warders to have shower. Only prisoners whose family paid had the right to shower, which was always ice cold in winter. The cell was not hygienic at all. If a prisoner was sick, all he could get was a tablet of paracetamol.
Did you receive any visitors during these three months of imprisonment?
S. No, I only had some telephone conversations with my grandfather. Then I realised he came to the prison regularly. The warders apparently extorted money from him and gave him false hope about my imprisonment condition while stopping him from seeing me. The only two visits I had were from a lawyer who was informed about my arrest by a student from my former school.
When and how were you released from the Boulmharez prison?
S. I was freed from this hell with the help of my grandfather, who paid a bribe of over €6,000 for my release. That is how it is in this very corrupt country. After several applications and months of waiting, I was finally granted a tourist visa by the French consulate. As soon as I arrived in France in November 2018, I applied for asylum. My application is being processed at the moment and I have a residency permit. I also wish to acknowledge the help and support I have received from the association 2MSG “Migrations, Minorités Sexuelles et de Genre”, (Migrations, Sexual Minorites and Gender).