A transgender Instagram influencer outed gay men in Morocco, making them targets for discrimination, family alienation, and violence. One of the men she outed just died by suicide.
But she’s unapologetic. “I feel bad for those f****ts but I don’t care,” she said.
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Naoufal Moussa is a Moroccan transgender woman who lives in Turkey and who goes by “Sofia Talouni” online, posting videos for her over 600,000 followers.
In an Instagram Live video last Monday, Moussa told her followers how to download apps like Planet Romeo, Hornet, and Grindr to find gay men who live in their area. She showed people how to search for the apps online, install them, and create fake profiles to out gay and bi men.
“These apps will show you the people who are near to you. One hundred meters, 200 meters, even just one meter, just next to you in the living room,” Moussa said in the since-deleted Arabic video that was translated by activist Adam Eli. “Since everyone is together at home, it could show you your husband in your bedroom, it could show you your son who might be in the bathroom.”
“You girls should create fake profiles and choose that you’re bottoms, which means you want someone to f**k you,” she said.
In places like Morocco, apps like Planet Romeo do far more than provide the occasional hook-up – they can be gay and bi men’s only connection to other queer people. Both male and female homosexuality is illegal in the majority Muslim nation and can be punished with up to three years in prison.
One man in Morocco told Business Insider that he quickly deleted his pics from Grindr because otherwise, he’d be “in a very dangerous situation right now.”
Others weren’t as fast. Since her video was posted, gay people in Morocco say that they’ve been kicked out of their homes, despite the global pandemic. Facebook groups have been created to share screenshots of profiles from the apps.
“We have been contacted by many people in distress following this campaign that outed them to the people around them,” an LGBTQ activist told Morocco’s Le Desk. The activist was only identified as “M.B.”
Moussa’s anti-gay campaign has already led to death. Last Friday, journalist Hicham Tahir reported on Twitter that a friend of a friend, a 21-year-old who was studying in France and who went back to his family’s home in Rabat for confinement, found his pictures from an app being shared on Facebook by people he grew up with. Le Desk confirmed the story with an activist in Morocco.
The victim’s mother “didn’t understand why her son killed himself,” Tahir wrote.
Mon ami parlant de lui "He was a wonderful person"
Les victimes d'homophobie au Maroc, ont maintenant un nom.
Et la loi, continue à être complice avec son article 489.
— Hicham Tahir (@HichamTahir) April 17, 2020
Tahir also shared the story of another friend whose aunt found out he was gay from social media. She told him she was ashamed of him and he has gone into hiding sometime in the past week.
Un autre ami vient de m’annoncer que sa tante a découvert son profil sur internet. Elle lui a dit qu’elle avait honte de lui. Il a peur qu’elle ne l’annonce à son père. Cet ami se cache depuis quelques jours ailleurs. pic.twitter.com/xrpDQhFifd
— Hicham Tahir (@HichamTahir) April 18, 2020
Moussa’s Instagram account was deleted by the social media giant, but she has already created another profile and said that she’ll keep creating profiles no matter how many times her accounts get deleted.
“Don’t think that you deleted my account,” she said in another video. “That was international organizations. You… you’re just little Moroccan f****ts. No one cares about you.”
"Ne pensez pas que c'est vous qui avez supprimé mon compte. Ce sont des associations internationales. Vous … vous n'êtes que des petits pédés marocains. Personne ne se préoccupe de vous"
— Hicham Tahir (@HichamTahir) April 17, 2020
“Personally, if I ever find out that Morocco recognizes homosexuality, I’m the first one that’s going to stand up,” Moussa said in part of her come-back video that was posted to Twitter.
“We shouldn’t recognize homosexuality. We are an Islamic country.”
Hey guys, thanks for reporting their first Instagram. They unfortunately created a new Instagram, and continue to threaten people, and insulting the gay community in Morocco, they’re not scared of Moroccan authorities because they live in Turkey 🇹🇷 PART1 of video- pic.twitter.com/kskYRycrTK
— killa (@zekillae) April 18, 2020
Human Rights Watch is looking into the situation and noted that a big part of the problem is Morocco’s Article 489, the law that criminalizes homosexuality.
“The law inherently discriminates against LGBTQ 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.”
Planet Romeo CEO Jens Schmidt said that the company sent a message to its users in Morocco.
“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.”
Facebook has said that it’s trying to stamp out the groups that are outing people in Morocco.
“We don’t allow people to out members of the LGBTQ+ community. It puts people at risk, so we remove this content as quickly as we can,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
According to M.B., houses have been set up in Casablanca and Rabat for queer people who have been kicked out of their homes or who fear family violence.
As for why a transgender woman would lead a campaign to out gay men, Moroccan photographer Hamza Makhchoune told Pink News that Moussa was herself rejected by her family, which left her with “a dark stone in her heart.”
He said that she longs for acceptance from a largely anti-LGBTQ public, as well as for attention for her cosmetics business in Turkey.
“In order to gain that acceptance, she sold us out and started giving them every way possible out there on how to find gay people and expose them and ruin their lives,” Makhchoune said.