A nightmare becomes reality: innocent but behind bars

K.F. is a Moroccan in her early thirties, civil society activist, businesswomen, consultant, and journalist. She is – besides in her home country – active in Europe, South Africa and Australia (Chair of the Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce).

Last year, I crossed her during two conferences she organised at the European Parliament: in March on interfaith relations and in November on media in Africa. I was impressed by the personality of this liberal-minded feminist, her energy, dedication, and effectiveness. At the beginning of this year, she registered her NGO “Organisation Internationale des Médias Africains” in Belgium and rented an apartment at Place Luxembourg. As a consequence, she commuted regularly between Brussels and Casablanca.

I intended to meet her this week. She was not showing up and I contacted a common friend who informed me of the following nightmare.

She had left Brussels for Morocco for a few days. On Tuesday, 29 May, she took the 17.45 Ryanair return flight from Rabat to Belgium. When she arrived at 22.45 in Charleroi, she was immediately arrested, her mobile phone and papers confiscated and put in a cell. It was declared that her multiple entry visa, valid up to the end of 2019, was no longer accepted – the reasons could not be revealed.

The following day, she was transported to the detention Centre “Centre Caricole” in Steenokkerzeel besides Zaventem airport. Since then she is detained in a room with five other women. When our common friend brought her food, it was rejected by the administration – only some chocolate and some dates were allowed. When she wanted to contact a lawyer, she could only send an email after having transmitted the content beforehand to the ministry.

Why is this international women’s activist who is in charge of a Brussels-based media NGO in that detention centre – without any mobile phone and free email access to the outside world?