Members of Morocco’s LGBT community say they fear for their lives after a prominent social media influencer sparked an online campaign to reveal their identities.
On April 13, Sofia Talouni, a gay Instagram personality also known as Naoufal Moussa, told his/her 600,000 followers to set up fake accounts on dating apps like Grindr and Planet Romeo to geolocate and identify gay family members, advocacy organizations KifKif and Nassiwiyat reported.
The ensuing online campaign to out those identified has led to a “wave of homophobia and hate in the country,” one community member and DW reader, who did not want to be named, wrote in to DW.
“I’m living in constant fear,” they wrote, after their photo was found through one of the dating apps and spread on social media. “I risk losing everything if my family find out about it and it may cost me my life for the sake of the honor of the family name.”
Homosexuality carries a heavy stigma in Moroccan society and, according to Article 489 of the penal code, can be punished by up to three years in jail.
It is unclear why Talouni – a gay Moroccan now living in Turkey – made the video, but retribution may have been a motive.
Talouni posted a follow-up video explaining that he/she wanted to “unmask the hypocrisy of Moroccan men” who had posted homophobic comments on his/her channel but were repressed gay men themselves, according to Italian LGBT rights group Il Grande Colibrì.
Instagram removed Talouni’s accounts over the weekend.
Talouni did not explicitly tell his/her followers to attack gay men, but the situation created by a coronavirus-related lockdown in Morocco may have also have contributed to the video snowballing into a social media campaign of threats and intimidation.
The lockdown in Morocco has made life for the LGBT community even more difficult
“Morocco is in total lockdown and everyone is home, so influencers can easily grab the attention of the public, as everyone is at home, connected online,” a spokesperson for Nassawiyat told DW.