After Being Beaten and Raped for an Entire Weekend in Marseille, This Gay Activist Speaks Up
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Last weekend, in Marseille, Zak Ostmane, 35 — who hails from Algeria (he is of Kabyle origin) and now lives in France — was held captive and violently raped in a hotel in Marseille, the nation’s second largest city. Ostmane is a founding member of Shams France, an LGBT organization created in 2014 to defend the rights of LGBTs born in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Libya.
This morning, we were able to reach him over the phone, and he recounted for us the story of a day and a half-long nightmare (translated from French):
On Friday evening [March 3], I went to the Polikarpov bar in the heart of Marseille, where I danced and then went back to the bar to drink my beer. Then I felt bad. I’m waiting for the [drug test] results, but it is perhaps GHB that could explain my diziness. A man approaches, we talk, and he suggests we go drink a beer at his place. On the way, I didn’t feel well, and I realized there were two of them.
They took me to a hotel located in Place de l’Opéra, in the center of Marseille. The media gave false information, saying it was I who brought them up to my room. I live in Marseille — I do not need to take a hotel room.
Once in the room, one of them went out for a while, and the other gave me a punch in the face and then fucked me. The second man came back, snorted coke, then asked me for money and took my credit card. I gave a fake code, and they beat me again when one came back empty-handed. Then, half-conscious, I remember that one of them tore a sheet and tied my ankles and wrists. I was kicked in the face and in the chest. Then I was thrown against the wall, where my nose suffered a violent shock. There was blood everywhere.
I fell to the ground, and I shouted. One of the men took out a knife, which was later confirmed by the police to be a survival knife, and he told me to be silent, otherwise he was going to kill me.
One of them went out, and from 5-10 a.m. on Saturday morning, nothing happened. I tried to negotiate to leave but was refused. The youngest — I think he was English — who spoke in a more comprehensible French, seemed to be afraid of the first, the older one, who was supposed to be an American. The older guy told me at one point, “You French, people come to help you, but you hate Trump, and you listen to black and Arabic music.
On Sunday morning, more than a day and a half after the start of the beatings and sexual assault, Ostmane found a way to escape his attackers.
“From an open window, I could see a police car in the Opera Square with two policemen and a police woman outside the car. I hesitated for 20 seconds, thinking, ‘If I do not do anything, I will die.’ I shouted with all my strength,” he says.
The two men beat him, and Ostmane defended himself while the first responded to the bell. The police arrested them immediately.
“The policemen did very well with me,” Ostmane says. “They took me to the hospital, where I stayed from 1-10 p.m. on Sunday. I saw many policemen pass by, I had a lot of exams and I was given post-exposure treatment for HIV.”
Ostmane says on Wednesday, March 8, the older, more violent attacker told the police that it was Ostmane who had made advances toward him and tried to kiss him, and that was why he had defended himself. The younger of the assailants claimed that during the confrontation that he was afraid of the older attacker and was himself afraid of suffering the same thing.
Right now Ostmane is not alone, and he explained to us that friends came from Algiers to surround him. Still, he is afraid to go out.
On March 7, Shams France published a statement of support of Ostmane:
Just yesterday we learned from a source that Ostmane’s two alleged assailants had been identified and would be imprisoned at the Baumettes prison. One is a former soldier of the Foreign Legion of 31 years, and the other a legionnaire — described as a deserter — of Nimes.
A police source confirmed to media outlet 20Minutes that the Sûreté Départementale opened an investigation. We have contacted the Marseille Police Department, though they have not yet responded.
Ostmane is the first gay Algerian to have publicly declared his sexual orientation in his home country, for which he was granted refugee status in France.