From victim to offender: Moroccan teacher sentenced to jail for accusing police of sexual assault

From victim to offender: Moroccan teacher sentenced to jail for accusing police of sexual assault
No investigation was opened into Nezha Majdy's accusations, who was sentenced to three months in jail for “harming the authorities' honor”. Forty-four other contracted teachers were handed softer sentences for participating in protests last year.
4 min read
11 March, 2022
Contracted teaching is the last resort for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Moroccan youths. [Getty]

A court in Rabat sentenced on Thursday forty-five Moroccan contracted teachers to different penalties for "not complying with Covid measures" and "insulting authorities" during their protests last year, in which more than 30 teachers had been arrested.

“The judging panel issued a two-month suspended sentence against 32 teachers, while a group of 12 was... [handed the same sentence] and a 1,000 Dirham [$103] fine,” Rajae Ait Essi, a member of the contracted teachers' press committee, told The New Arab.

According to the Moroccan penal code, suspension of execution means that the convict will not serve the prison sentence unless they commit a crime punishable by imprisonment within the next five years.

The court charged them with "violating the Health Emergency Law", "perpetrating violence against authorities", and  "unarmed gathering without a license" during protests that had erupted into violence in April last year.

Nezha Majdy was the only teacher sentenced to 3 months in prison on similar charges, in addition to "insulting public authorities with intent to harm their honor".

On April 6 and 7, 2021, security forces attacked hundreds of contracted teachers, who were protesting in the Moroccan capital for better work conditions. Pictures of teachers dragged and beaten up in Rabat’s streets were widely circulated on social media.

Majdy told the media that, after being violently arrested during the protests, the Moroccan police had sexually assaulted her during the 48 hours she had spent in five different police stations.

No investigation was opened into her case, instead, she was prosecuted for “harming the authorities' honor”.

The conviction of Majdy, which came three days after International Women’s Day, was widely condemned as "evidence of double standards" over women’s rights in Morocco.

“They jailed many male journalists for ‘sexual assault charges’ despite the lack of evidence, but when a teacher says she was assaulted by authorities she gets jailed. Do women's rights only matter to silence journalists?” Yasmina, a Moroccan university student, told The New Arab.

Omar Radi, Soulaiman Raissouni, and Taoufiq Bouachrin were sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on sexual assault charges.

Amnesty International said that the trials were politically motivated. It also called on Moroccan authorities to drop the charges against teachers and end their crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.

Estimated to number more than 100,000, Moroccan contracted teachers started a nationwide strike two weeks ago, protesting against their colleagues' trial, as they continue to call for better work conditions. 

“In reaction to the sentences against Majdy and our other colleagues, and to the ongoing disrespect towards us, we decided to extend our strike until March 13,” Ait Essi, the member of the teachers' press committee, told The New Arab.

In 2017 the Moroccan government started an employment program for contracted workers in public schools, in order to reduce the number of people benefiting from public pension schemes.

Teachers say of themselves that they were "forced to accept" contracted work. They are paid less than permanent staff and, unlike them, have no right to work in cities outside of their region or to apply for vacancies in universities, according to Ait Essi.

Contracted teaching remains the last resort for hundreds of thousands of Moroccan youths, as unemployment rates have exceeded 12% over the last quarter of 2021.