The transgender Instagram influencer, who caused a wave of homophobic attacks Morocco has apologised for encouraging her followers to publicly out gay men.
Naoufal Moussa, known online as Sofia Taloni, told for her 620,000 followers during an Instagram livestream in April to use social media to find gay or bi men in Morrocco.
In doing so, Moussa encouraged people to download dating apps, create fake profiles and check how many of their family members, friends, or neighbours were gay.
Moussa said she aimed to “humanise” Homosexuality by showing how many people were gay in the Islamic-majority country.
However, in the now-deleted video, Moussa denounced gay men as “f****t losers” who should thank God just for the fact that they “are able to walk down the street.”
“We shouldn’t recognize homosexuality; we are an Islamic country,” the influencer claimed, condemning those who fight for legal recognition of same-sex relations as “dirty.”
Instead, Moroccan men were tricked by fake profiles into sharing explicit photos that were posted online, resulting in many being cyber-bullied, blackmailed or thrown out of family homes during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Moussa said she never intended to ‘out’ gay men for malicious purposes in Morocco, where Under Article 489 of the Penal Code of Morocco, Homosexuality in men and women is still illegal and can be punished with anything from six months, to three years’ imprisonment.
“My intention was to ‘humanise’, ‘un-demonise’ and ‘normalise’ gay people in Morocco, so we stop thinking of them as outcasts,” Moussa told the Reuters.
Moussa also iterated that she regretted her advice that was used to “target gay men instead of bringing them closer to the mainstream society.”
Moussa added that her intentions were never to out gay men, with increasing numbers using dating apps as the COVID-19 pandemic had closed gay bars and other LGBTQI-friendly spaces.
Based in Turkey where homosexuality is legal, Moussa grew up in Morocco and worked as a model before transitioning from male to female and creating a career as an Instagram beauty influencer.
At the height of her influence, Moussa’s nightly Instagram broadcasts regularly attracted up to 100,000 viewers.
Since the nation-wide outing, Moussa’s Instagram and Facebook accounts were suspended in April by Facebook, which said it did not approve of Moussa’s actions.
Grindr and several other dating apps also sprang into action, warning gay men in Morocco to be cautious as their information could have been compromised.
Following the call-to-action from Moussa, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also called on the Moroccan government to repeal its law criminalising Homosexuality as the law only encourages harassment or violence directed against the LGBTQI community.
HRW spokesman, Ahmed Benchemsi, noted that criminalising Homosexuality serves no purpose except justifying abuse against LGBTQI community members.
“The real problem with such homophobic campaigns, regardless of how they were instigated, is that Morocco’s anti-LGBT law encourages them, if not incubates them,” he said.
So far, Reactions to Moussa’s apology have been mixed. While some see the apology as a “sign of maturity,” others, such as Moroccan LGBTQI rights group, Nassawiyat, believe Moussa still hasn’t done enough to fix her mistakes.
“We aren’t against [Moussa], but she harmed a lot of people. We have a real problem with the system and how it builds monsters and internalised homophobia and transphobia,” a spokesman for Nassawiyat said.