Global Roundup: Morocco Abortion Protests, Indonesian Women Join Iran's Protests, Puerto Rico Queer Food Sovereignty Activist, Indigenous Race Car Driver, Embracing Queer Community
Curated by Samiha Hossain
A protestor carrying a poster from the Moroccan Otlaws 490 organisation. Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra via Open Democracy
CW: sexual violence
Moroccan women are protesting for the right to safe abortion after a 14-year-old girl died from a clandestine abortion.
Meriem died during a clandestine abortion that happened in the house of a man who has been accused of sexually exploiting her. He has been arrested along with the health workers involved.
Abortion is largely illegal in Morocco, permitted only when the pregnant person’s life is at risk. Abortions under other circumstances attract penalties of up to two years for those who receive them, and 10 to 30 years for the health workers involved. According to the Moroccan Organization against Clandestine Abortion (AMLAC), between 600 and 800 clandestine abortions happen each day in the country.
On October 6, dozens of activists gathered outside the country’s parliamentary building with posters that said in Arabic, local Darija, French, and English: “For you, they’re laws; for us, they are death penalties,” and: “You can’t ban abortion; you can only ban safe abortion.”
Malak Berkia, a medical student at the protest, tells the story of a friend who went to Malak’s own mother, a teacher, terrified because of an accidental pregnancy:
She couldn’t tell her parents she was pregnant because they would kill her, or put her in the street. My mother didn't know what to tell her. Then the student disappeared. We don't know what happened to her to this day. -Malak Berkia
Morocco’s feminist movement extends further than just abortion rights. Activists are also fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, reforming the Moroccan family code, and free expression, among others. They want a complete reform of the penal code to guarantee civil liberties and human rights, and implement the gender equality promised by the country’s 2011 constitution. They also want a repeal of Article 490, the section of the penal code that criminalizes consensual sexual relationships outside marriage.
We cannot talk about sex, sexual education, or our bodies, here in Morocco. It's taboo. - Soumbala, 23-year-old activist
Protesting on the street is not possible for everyone. The Moroccan police have a documented history of disproportionate use of force against protesters. Moroccan journalists have been targeted for their dissent and activists live in fear of being targeted as a threat. As a result, many turn online to get some anonymity – particularly the younger generation. In recent months, hashtags such as #Meriem have fuelled debate, just as #Stop490, #Masaktach and #MeTooUniv did in the past.
I don't want my country to just stay as it is right now because it's not sustainable. I think that us, the younger generation, should raise awareness about this. -Regraguy, 17-year-old protestor
Hundreds of protesters gather outside the Iranian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, in solidarity with Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody for not wearing her hijab properly CREDIT: Eko Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images via Telegraph
Indonesian women are fighting for the rights of Iranians to ditch their mandatory hijabs, amid fears that their own freedom to choose whether to wear a headscarf is under threat. Some 200 rights activists gathered in front of the Iranian embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta this week to demand an investigation into the estimated hundreds of Iranian women and children who have been killed during a violent state crackdown on their revolt against strict Islamic dress codes, among other demands.
Activist Ririn Sefsani, the head of the NGO “Commitment for Change” and one of the organizers of the Jakarta rally, called on the Indonesian government to speak up and urge Iran to stop all forms of violence against citizens fighting for human rights. Sefsani and other activists have warned that Iran is a cautionary tale for Indonesia. Over the past two decades, women and girls in Indonesia—the world’s largest Muslim country—have faced spiralling legal and social pressure to wear clothing deemed Islamic under Sharia law.
We hope that [the protests] can inspire Indonesian people to be considered and aware that they should not push women to wear a hijab in the name of religion or morality. -Ririn Sefsan
A 2021 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said most of the Indonesia’s provinces and dozens of cities and regencies were imposing discriminatory and abusive dress codes on women and girls. The report documented widespread bullying of girls and women to force them to cover up, as well as the deep psychological distress the bullying can cause. It said that in at least 24 of the country’s 34 provinces, girls who did not comply were forced to leave school or withdrew under pressure, while some female civil servants, including teachers, doctors, school principals, and university lecturers, lost their jobs or felt compelled to resign.
While the central government has no legal authority to revoke local laws, the home ministry has the power to nullify local executive orders that contradict national laws and the constitution.
Indonesia’s Minister of Home Affairs Tito Karnavian should immediately overturn discriminatory, rights-abusing provincial and local decrees that violate the rights of women and girls. These decrees do real harm and as a practical matter will only be ended by central government action. -Andreas Harsono, Indonesia-based researcher for HRW
Tara Rodríguez Besosa Elizabeth Vega via them.us
Tara Rodríguez Besosa is the co-founder of El Departamento de la Comida, a collective food hub that is building a support system for local farming beyond hurricane season. The 38-year-old food sovereignty activist lives on a queer collective homestead, OtraCosa, in the mountainous barrio of San Salvador in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
El Departamento de la Comida was founded in 2010 as one of Puerto Rico’s first multi-farm community supported agriculture programs. The name, which translates to the Department of Food, gestures to the state's failure and proposes an alternative way of farming, cooking, and eating. Within two years, El Depa had expanded into a bustling storefront, restaurant, and kitchen space located in San Juan. In 2017, it was destroyed by hurricane María. Without a physical location, Rodríguez Besosa and fellow organizers pivoted to solidarity brigades on the islands. Volunteers traveled by van to help local farms, bringing their own hand tools, food, clean water, and construction materials. Building upon relationships with queer and trans-led grassroots collectives in the U.S., El Depa raised more than $400,000 in relief aid. The long-term goal is to rebuild a decimated food system under the guiding pillars of reforestation, rainwater catchment systems, renewable energy, seed sovereignty, and community wellness.
Our disasters are not hurricanes. It has to do with our control of our own resources, or lack thereof, and decision making around our infrastructure, whether it be education, health, or electricity. -Tara Rodríguez Besosa
At the center of the struggle for Puerto Rican sovereignty is access to land and being able to grow food. Despite an optimal climate for biodiverse agriculture, Puerto Rico imports over 80% of its food at steep costs compared to the mainland.
We were force-fed the American dream. We were told how to be civilized: It’s the can, it’s the microwave, it’s going into the supermarket and having money to treat yourself to packaged foods. We were told that these fruit trees growing in our backyards were worthless. -Tara Rodríguez Besosa
Within and beyond the coasts of Puerto Rico, there is an extended network of collaborators, friends and comrades, like La Sombrilla Cuir, EspicyNipples, and Food Issues Group, that Rodríguez Besosa turns to for connection. It is not about any one person or any specific group but people working together, sharing skills as well as meals, and struggling in solidarity across borders, from Puerto Rico to Palestine.
I myself am a part of a big queer community of fucking amazing farmers, activists, cooks, and healers. Before and after María, at all protests and calls to action in support of our land and ecoststems, the queer and trans community really fucking showed up in support, and we have continued those relationships. This is our queer family, our chosen family. -Tara Rodríguez Besosa
Stefan Klym taught his daughter, Destiny Klym, how to race cars at a young age. She was 13 when she first competed. (Aaron Sinclair) via CBC
Destiny Klym is the first Saskatchewan and Indigenous woman to compete in a Nascar-sanctioned race. She has competed in hobby stock, street stock and modified cars across the Prairies and in several states, taking home multiple championship trophies.
Destiny’s father, Stefan Klym taught her to drive at a young age around the rural area near Carlyle, Saskatchewan, Canada. Neither anticipated she would be racing before she (legally) hit the highway. One day Stefan brought home a race car to surprise his son, who responded with indifference. But Destiny pounced at the opportunity to have her own wheels. They have been racing together ever since.
I'm not really scared of being behind the wheel after an accident. I never really get nervous. I kind of have a need for speed — have to go more and more and do better. -Destiny Klym
Destiny says male competitors will occasionally get angry about her beating them, but generally she finds the sport to be a supportive and welcoming environment. She recalls female drivers being rare when she started racing. That is not the case anymore, and she has happily picked up the role model torch.
During that NASCAR Pinty's Series, a young, terminally ill girl attended one race. She had the chance to choose her favourite driver with whom to spend the day. She picked Destiny.
Destiny now works in Edmonton as a welder, another field dominated by men. She likes being able to fix her own race car. The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on racing, but she hopes to head to the U.S. again soon.
Hayfaa Chalabi via gal-dem
Yas Necati writes a reflection on Gal Dem about how hosting a drag bingo night in a small Welsh town made them reflect on what queer community really means.
I felt part of something bigger which made me reflect on what that actually means. People often talk about rest and joy being found in ‘community’, but what is it and how do we find it as adults? -Yas Necati
The event made Necati think about when they got Covid-19 for the first time and loved ones cooked for them and helped them find their missing cat.
It made me think about the difference between being in friendship and being in community, where the crossover and separation is and how we put community into practice. -Yas Necati
Necati discusses that while they have also shown up for their community, it should not be transactional. Rather, it is about “collectively directing support and resources where they are most needed.” In their small Welsh town, a group of them recognized the need to raise money to help folks who are founding a local youth club and another to create more queer spaces, and safer stages to celebrate queer performers. They brought these things together into a drag bingo fundraiser, and as well as having a rich, celebratory and memorable night, they also raised over £600 for the new youth club.
…I’ve been grateful to live amongst folk who prioritise gentleness, accountability, rest, care and imagination. This really does seem like what community feels and looks like in practice, and I can’t wait to keep being in it, and carrying what I’ve learned with me wherever I go next. -Yas Necati
Samiha Hossain (she/her) is a student at the University of Ottawa. She has experience working with survivors of sexual violence in her community, as well as conducting research on gender-based violence. A lot of her time is spent learning about and critically engaging with intersectional feminism, transformative justice and disability justice.
Samiha firmly believes in the power of connecting with people and listening to their stories to create solidarity and heal as a community. She refuses to let anyone thwart her imagination when it comes to envisioning a radically different future full of care webs, nurturance and collective liberation.