LGBT+ activists have confirmed that at least one gay man in Morocco has died by suicide after being hunted down and publicly outed by a transgender beauty influencer.
Gay men in Morocco have been living in terror for the past fortnight, after beauty influencer Naofal Moussa, also known as Sofia Talouni, instructed her hundreds of thousands of followers to use gay dating apps to identify them.
Moussa, whose verified Instagram account had 627,000 followers before it was deleted, used a series of Instagram Live videos to encourage straight women in Morocco to create fake accounts on Grindr and Planet Romeo.
She instructed them to identify as “bottoms” and said that by doing this, they would be able to identify gay men around them during lockdown – going as far to suggest that women might be able to find out if their family members are gay.
As a result, gay dating apps were flooded with fake accounts and images of gay men’s profiles began circulating online.
Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and any form of same-sex intimacy – including kissing – is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Violent homophobia is also rife.
Following Moussa’s videos, multiple gay men in Morocco told PinkNews that they were living in a state of absolute terror: watching as other gay men were outed on social media, beaten up by their families, kicked out of their homes, disappearing and, in several, unverified, cases, killing themselves as a result of being publicly outed.
Now, tragically, reports of gay men dying by suicide in the Muslim-majority country have been confirmed.
An LGBT+ activist, identified only as “MB”, confirmed reports of a death to Moroccan news outlet Le Desk.
This followed journalist Hicham Tahir reporting on Twitter that a friend of a friend had died in Rabat.
The 21-year-old, who was studying in France, had returned to Morocco to stay with family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His mother “didn’t understand why her son killed himself”, Tahir wrote in French on Twitter.
Mon ami parlant de lui “He was a wonderful person”
Les victimes d’homophobie au Maroc, ont maintenant un nom.
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Human Rights Watch told LGBTQ Nation that it was looking into the situation.
“The law inherently discriminates against LGBT+ people, so it can only be an incubator for this type of abuse,” said Ahmed Benchemsi of HRW.
“Homophobic people feel empowered because the law is on their side.”
Jens Schmidt, CEO of gay dating app Planet Romeo, said the company had responded by sending an urgent message to its users in Morocco.
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“We were shocked when we were contacted by the LGBT+ group in Morocco,” Schmidt said.
“We took immediate action by sending a security message to all our 41,000 users in Morocco, we blocked all profiles created from the time this person addressed her users and contacted Facebook to have the group page taken offline.”
Images of gay men in Morocco are being shared in closed Facebook groups by women following Moussa’s instructions.
A spokesperson for the social-media giant said it was trying to shut these groups down.
“We don’t allow people to out members of the LGBT+ community. It puts people at risk, so we remove this content as quickly as we can,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
The Samaritans are the UK’s suicide reduction charity and their free helpline number is 116 123.
In the US, The Lifeline offers free, confidential support 24/7 on 1-800-273-8255.