Gay men in Morocco living in terror after trans influencer urged her followers to use dating apps to hunt them and out them
Gay men in Morocco are living in terror after a beauty influencer instructed her hundreds of thousands of followers to use gay dating apps to identify them, in a country where homosexuality is illegal and violent homophobia is rife.
Naofal Moussa, also known as Sofia Talouni, is a trans woman based in Turkey who – before her verified account was deleted on Friday – had more than 627,000 Instagram followers.
Starting on Monday this week, she used her nightly Instagram Live series – watched by over 100,000 people – to instruct the straight women following her to download gay dating apps from the app store and use them to find gay men in their vicinity.
Any form of same-sex intimacy – including kissing – is illegal in Morocco and punishable by up to three years in prison.
There is also no law against harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Multiple gay men PinkNews spoke to described how they are now living in a state of absolute terror: watching other gay men get outed on social media, beaten up by their families, kicked out of their homes, disappear and, in several, unverified, cases, die by suicide.
All while wondering if they will be outed next.
Naofal Moussa: trans woman told her followers how to find gay men online.
In now-deleted Instagram Live videos seen by PinkNews, and translated by queer activists in Morocco, Moussa – who is mainly known as a beauty influencer – says: “I feel bad for those f****ts but I don’t care.”
“So girls you will go on the app store. You will type in the word ‘gay’. And then a lot of gay apps will show up.”
“These gay apps will show you all the people who are near you. But you girls should create fake profiles and choose that you’re bottoms,” she continues. “Which means you want someone to f**k you.”
“You girls should create fake profiles and choose that you’re bottoms.”
Telling her followers that the three “famous” gay dating apps are Grindr, Planet Romeo and Hornet, she added: “Listen girls and women that think they have manly gay husbands and sons…. these apps will show you the ‘gay’ people who are near you.
“100 metres, 200 metres or even one metre. Just near you in the living room since everyone is home now.
“It could even show you your husband, your son. It could show you your neighbour from next door. It could show you your cousin, your uncle.
Naofal Moussa did not explicitly tell her followers to use the information she shared about gay dating apps to hunt down and out gay men.
But that is exactly what happened.
‘You f*****s are ruining this country.’
This week, pictures of gay men began circulating in closed Facebook groups, with homophobic captions.
And in a later Instagram Live, Moussa held up her phone and showed screenshots her followers had taken of gay men’s dating app profiles (PinkNews has seen these screenshots but is not republishing them here due to safety concerns for the men).
Messages sent to gay men on dating apps, from people who had tracked them down using Moussa’s instructions, were extremely homophobic and threatened violence.
“If I catch you, I’ll cut your throat,” one message read.
“You f****ts are ruining this country.”
Other messages sent to gay men on dating apps, from people who claimed to be women, read: “You got caught, f****t”, “I’ll deal with you later” and “I’m just trying to find all the f****ts in my neighbourhood”.
Pictures of gay men in Morocco circulate on Facebook.
“I woke up to my friends’ and people I know’s pictures all over Facebook with the most horrible and homophobic captions,” a 19-year-old gay man living in Morocco told PinkNews.
“I was in a constant state of fear and panic wondering if my pictures were there too, and when will this reach my parents.”
He explains that he lives with his parents and has hidden his sexuality from them ever since the day they found out he had commented on a picture of a gay Moroccan man.
“They beat me up because I was engaging with ‘deviant’ people,” he said, “and from that day on I’ve hiding everything about my sexuality.”
A friend of his who was outed this week has not replied to his messages for three days.
Others, he says, have also disappeared from social media after being outed.
And out queer people have received death threats, he adds, while the number of gays rumoured to have been kicked out of their homes onto the streets – during national lockdown – is growing.
Gay men in Morocco kicked out onto the streets.
“She has ruined the lives of so many people just in the past four days,” says Nassim*, a gay man who lives in Casablanca.
Nassim knows of at least 40 gay men who’ve been exposed and kicked out of their homes in Casablanca alone, as a result of Moussa’s videos.
“You can imagine how dangerous that is during a lockdown,” he says. “They basically will have nowhere to go.”
Nassim, who is closeted, explained how dangerous it is in Morocco to be outed as gay: “If our parents know that we’re gay they will immediately kick us out, abuse us or if you’re very lucky and your parents have a little bit of humanity in them, they will keep you but your life will never be the same.
“They will always see you as sick, and they’ll keep constantly trying to talk you into changing and maybe go to a therapist.”
“Moroccans hate gays with all their hearts.”
The queer community in Morocco had been “living in peace for a while”, he said, because “as long as nobody knows you’re gay you’re fine”.
“But because of Sofia [Moussa] now, there’s hundreds of Facebook groups run by Moroccans just to find gay people and expose them… Moroccans hate gays with all their hearts.”
Suicide and ‘torture’.
Hamza Makhchoune, an openly gay Moroccan photographer, has filed a report with the public prosecutor’s office in Casablanca about Moussa’s videos.
“The dangers that the live stream resulted was exposing many homosexuals who are still in the closet or still not yet sure about his sexual orientation and trying to figure that out,” Makhchoune says.
“Some people got threatened on messenger by neighbours and others are getting blackmailed.”
Makhchoune says he knows of a gay youth who is being “tortured” by his family, who are also beating him up and spitting on him, after he was outed in one of the Facebook groups.
Because the boy is under 18, the queer community is unable to help him, Makhchoune says.
“Sometimes I wish I am the one to be exposed instead of others such as the teenager,” he continues.
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Details about the number of the gay men who have killed themselves this week as a result of being outed remain unclear, but almost every gay man PinkNews spoke to was aware of at least one person who had died by suicide.
If they were kicked out and killed themselves without speaking to anyone then “it is hard to know what happened”, Makhchoune says.
“So far, I know only the results.”
Why did a trans woman target gay men?
Makhchoune said: “I think that considering what Sofia [Moussa] has passed through in her life and it was not easy for her that her father does not accept her and she has not seen him for about 20 years.
“That has created a dark stone in her heart. She was angry and she did what she did. Maybe she wanted not to be the only one rejected and kicked out.”
Nassim added that Moussa “always wanted to be accepted by the Moroccan public”.
“In order to gain that acceptance from that, 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, and because also it increases her following and also brings her financial gain, since she lives in Turkey and she has a beauty/cosmetic business over there.”
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Moussa’s Instagram account was taken down on Friday after efforts from Moroccan queer and feminist groups, as well as international queer organisers like Adam Eli.
But the damage and violence caused by her videos continues.
“She basically announced a war on gay people,” Nassim says. “We’re really scared and she has ruined the image of the queer community forever.”
The 19-year-old gay man, who had to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said: “This means a total loss of our underground queer culture.
“We are wondering if there is any safe space for us to go to after all of this ends.”
Some names have been changed to protect those interviewed.