Following protests outside her trial, a Moroccan court in Rabat has sentenced journalist Hajar Raissouni, 28, to one year in prison for having an abortion and sex outside of marriage. Raissouni, however, claims she had no such abortion and that this sentence is retaliation for articles she has written criticizing the government of the North African country. The events have left many dismayed and feeling that this is part of a political strategy to minimize women’s rights and stifle free speech.
Raissouni had been arrested after leaving a clinic on August 31st. She stated in court that she was being treated for internal bleeding—not an abortion—which her gynecologist confirmed.Two clinic staff members told investigators they had performed a routine procedure to remove a blood clot, according to The Guardian. Following her arrest she was required to undergo a vaginal examination against her will to determine whether or not she had received an abortion. Detained along with Raissouni was her Sudanese fiancé, professor Rifaat al-Amin, the doctor who is said to have performed the abortion, an anesthetist and a medical assistant. In addition to Raissouni’s year sentence, today the court gave her fiancé and the anesthetist a one-year sentence, the doctor received two years and the medical assistant is to serve eight months as reported by Al Jazeera.
The events have sparked much debate and outrage. It led to a manifesto signed by 490 Moroccan women and published in major news outlets in which the women deem themselves “outlaws” for having sex out of wedlock and being complicit in abortion activities. People also believe that, due to the harshness of the sentence and the frequency of abortions, this case is more about an attempt to censor Raissouni’s journalism. Here are some more reactions from people and women of Morocco from today’s court decision: