- But do her excuses make sense?
A transgender Instagram influencer has apologized for sparking a wave of homophobic outings in Morocco.
The Moroccan expat living in Turkey is called Naofal Moussa but uses the name Sofia Talouni online. She went on Instagram Live in April to tell Moroccan women about Grindr, PlanetRomeo and other apps.
She told women to use fake photos of men to catfish men using the gay dating and hook-up apps. Moreover, she even encouraged them to pose as ‘bottoms’ to gain more interest. And speaking in Moroccan Arabic, Moussa said (translated):
‘These apps will show you the people who are near to you. 100 meters, 200 meters, even just one meter, just next to you in the living room.
‘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.’
The resulting witch hunt saw women posting photos and details on social media of the men they’d entrapped.
Trolls bullied the men online, others blackmailed them. Families kicked them out of home during the coronavirus lockdown. And many more men were left in fear their families would discover them in a country where homosexuality still earns people three years in jail.
The LGBT+ community even reported a rise in suicides.
Now Moussa claims she didn’t intend any gay men should be outed.
‘My intention was to “humanize” gay people’
In her apology, she told Reuters whe wanted to show how many people are gay in Morocco. Moreover, she claims she wanted to ‘humanize’ homosexuality.
She says she regrets her advice was used to ‘target gay men instead of bringing them closer to the mainstream society’.
She said: ‘My intention was to “humanize”, “un-demonize” and “normalize” gay people in Morocco so we stop thinking of them as outcasts.
‘I literally wanted people to think of gay people as the man or woman next door and to stop the negative fantasy about who gay people are, how they look like and how they live.’
However, her words may not tally with the tone or instructions she gave her 620,000 followers.
At the time, she encouraged them to catfish the men into sending nude photos.
And she said: ‘I feel bad for some faggots but I don’t really care.’
As a result, Instagram and Facebook suspended her accounts. Meanwhile dating apps sent out alerts to their users.
Fresh demand to make gay sex legal in Morocco
However, the witch hunt also sparked fresh demands for Morocco to decriminalize same-sex relationships.
Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Morocco. Under Article 489 of the Penal Code offenders face anything from six months to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1,000 dirhams (US$104).
LGBT+ organizations across north Africa, led by Association Akaliyat, demanded that law must go. They were joined by the international NGO, Human Rights Watch.
However, Morocco has previously refused to decriminalize.
In October last year, the state-appointed National Human Rights Council recommended decriminalization. And more than 25 nongovernmental organizations expressed support. But the government refused to act.
The victims may still get some justice, all the same.
Morocco’s constitution guarantees the right to privacy. And offenders who distribute private conversations could face six months to three years jail.
On 24 April, the Moroccan national security told Agence France Presse that the police have opened a ‘preliminary investigation’ for ‘incitement to hatred and discrimination’.