Photo credits: rokiatraore.net
A Change.org petition has collected over 23,000 signatures in support of acclaimed singer and human rights activist Rokia Traore of Mali following her arrest in Paris for a child custody violation.
According to French authorities, Traoré was jailed on a Belgian warrant for failing to hand over her five-year-old daughter to her estranged partner, a Belgian national, as ordered by a Belgian court.
The warrant charges her with kidnapping and hostage-taking. In protest, she has launched a hunger strike.
The Belgian Collectif des Meres Veilleuses (Collective of Single Mothers) on Change.org says Ms. Traore’s arrest “demonstrates the dysfunctions of Belgian justice with regard to single mothers.”
“These dysfunctions are racialized when the mother is of non-EU origin,” the mothers’ group charged. “Indeed, Mrs Traoré’s story shows that an absent father, who does not contribute financially to the child’s needs, retains his parental rights. He can at any time go to court and have the child removed from the person who has assumed all the emotional, educational and financial duty towards the child.
“Furthermore, it is an aberration that Mrs Traoré faces “mother shaming” because she has an international career as an artist.”
Born in Kolokani, Mali, Ms. Traore travelled widely as a diplomat’s daughter. She studied with Malian musician Ali Farka Touré and won the Radio France Internationale prize as African Discovery. Her music draws upon her homeland’s traditions as well as the European and American rock and pop.
Projected shows for 2020 include “Once upon a time, an iron rose”, a tribute to Miriam Makeba.
Traore is also known for her work for refugees and was made a UN ambassador for refugees in 2016.
Mali’s government has issued a statement in support of Traoré.
Franck Berton, the lawyer for the father of Traore’s daughter called the artist’s hunger strike a media stunt to get out of jail.
Traore replied: “I have undertaken this action is so that I will be guaranteed a fair trial in Belgium and to make sure that the European arrest warrant is not unfairly applied.”
A court hearing in France is due this month to examine the request for her extradition to Belgium.