- What did you do?
- Dude, this is serious. What the fuck did you do?
- NOTHING I SWEAR! I didn’t even unzip my pants !!!
In Morocco, people split into two categories: married and singles. Married people are accepted and respected. Marriage turns boys into men and girls into mothers. Anything broken or shameful is covered by the lid of the new social status. History dissolves under the sanctity of a piece of paper and an extravagant ceremony. In Morocco, married people live the good life… on paper.
Being single is an abnormality, an annoying temporary status. A boy who has not married is looked after. A girl who has not married is scorned, at best behind her back. In a society where women are judged by the way they blink, single girls have three options: submission, exile or rebellion. All carry heavy consequences. So single guys often try their luck with foreigners… or prostitutes. Girls resort to secrecy.
An early phone call woke me up. It was Bob. He skipped his usual introduction joke.
- Hey, what's up?
- Something happened last night. I need you to be accurate please. Who stayed after I left?
- Me, Anas, Raja and the two brothers
- Ok, and what did you do?
- We finished the wine around the fire while Raja and Anas were doing their show
- What do you mean?
- They were touching and teasing each other in front of us. Almost making out like we were not even there, no fucks given. We told them to go get a room.
- And then?
- Then Raja left.
- Did you see where she went?
- Ok, and then ?
- Then Anas left too.
- Did you see where he went?
- No. Me and the two brothers stayed in the living room.
- Ok, and then?
- I called him a bit later. I wanted to go home. He wanted to stay but I harassed him until he came back.
- Is that it? Did he say anything in particular?
- No, he was just disappointed.
- Yeah, I guess I cock-blocked him. Why what’s up?
- Ok… It's Raja. She told Elza that Anas abused her sexually.
- Did you talk to Anas?
- Not yet, I want to gather everyone’s piece before. This is serious. Please turn off your phone and don’t talk to anyone until I give you the green light, it should be around noon. We need to get to the bottom of this.
I could not believe it. Anas, the kindest of all my friends. The guy who checks on you after a joke to make sure you are okay. The guy who would take a bullet for his dog! I trusted him with my life. He would never do such a thing.
I waited, worrying myself sick. Doubt crept by, the alcohol, the teasing... Anxiety crippled my mind. What if she presses charges? What if he is found guilty? No it can't be. But what if... He would never survive in jail… I would need to stay and testify. Fuck! I needed to talk to him.
A few hours later Bob gave me permission. Him and Elza finished collecting everyone's testimonial. Bob approached the matter with surgical precautions while Elza's emotions lashed out. When I talked to Anas, he was as stunned as I was. What the hell? How much did he drink?
The situation turned around what is considered "abuse", a dialogue of the deaf. On one side were Anas, me and the weight of the testimonials. On the other were Raja, Elza and the outrage of eternal gender inequality. Everyone took the matter seriously and wanted to shed a light on the events, on every single detail. We needed facts, testimonials were not enough. We demanded the truth.
Bob suggested that they talk it out first, just the two of them. Anas agreed. Raja did not. Elza said you cannot ask a victim to sit and chat with her persecutor. There was a lot of noise in the background. Raja was the victim of sexual abuse. Anas was the victim of his naivety. After connecting all the dots, there were missing parts but open discussion was never an option. Time silenced the issue. They never talked it out.
Weeks later I randomly shared a bus ride with one of the brothers who was with us around the fireplace that night. He was a friend of Raja and had known her for many years. I ventured on her accusation. On a casual tone he said: “Oh yeah, I heard but I stopped paying attention to her. It’s not the first time it happened, probably not the last. She just likes drama!”
I was angry. I value freedom and truth. Everything in Raja's attitude led me to believe that she lied. She could have thrown Anas behind bars had she pressed charges. For some reason she didn't. Trying to make sense of it, I put things into perspective. This was Morocco. A country I had myself fled for its social pressure and lack of freedom, and I am a man...
Raja was a single Moroccan girl who flirted openly with a stranger whom she then accused of sexual abuse. When we took the matter seriously and cornered her for the truth, she bailed. She swap it under the rug. Maybe she had been shamed in the past. Maybe she had been abused by other men. Maybe she couldn't bear the consequences of her accusations.
Social pressure and sexual oppression twisted reality. They had turned a horny girl into a liar, and a horny guy into a rapist. In other parts of the world, what would be nothing more than a failed hookup carried there the seeds of lifelong traumas. How troublesome it was, to be single in Morocco.
I was relieved for Anas. Despite his presumed innocence and all his protests, I still call him "the rapist". Real friends never miss a chance.