Gay men in Morocco are living in fear following calls by an Instagram influencer to out them using dating apps such as Grindr and Planet Romeo, according to Insider. Many in the area report that friends have disappeared after being outed or even died by suicide.
Sofia Talouni, a transgender Moroccan expatriate now living in Turkey, used an Instagram Live feed last week to encourage women in her home country to place fake ads and create profiles on gay dating apps to identify and out gay men living in their communities. Instagram deleted her account Friday.
"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," Talouni said in Arabic in her video, as translated by Insider. "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."
Same-sex sexual relations are illegal in Morocco, punishable by a fine and up to three years in prison. Equally concerning to gay men, though, are the ostracization and physical danger that can result from being outed in the deeply religious and conservative society.
After Talouni posted her video, a flood of cisgender straight men as well as women began making profiles and sharing the information from the queer men they found on the apps. There have been reports of violence as well as death by suicide. Local LGBTQ groups were quick to sound the alarm.
"We were shocked when we were contacted by the LGBT group in Morocco,” Jens Schmidt, founder and CEO of PlanetRomeo, said in a statement to Insider. “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. Through our work and our personal experience, we are aware that so many more people face similar threats in numerous countries."
Several videos of Talouni making similarly shocking statements can be seen on the Twitter account OutedInGrinder, newly created to document the current abuses. In one livestream, she is seen denigrating HIV prevention groups in Morocco because they contribute “to the spread of queerness.”
In another, she delivers a series of transphobic insults to a transgender man.
"These hate crimes should not be tolerated and Sofia needs to be held accountable or her actions through a trial in a legal court for defamation and hate [for] all the hate crimes she committed," a local wrote to Out in an email. The writer noted that while homosexuality may be a crime in Morocco, "so is the violation of an individual's privacy and sharing their private information and picture to the public."