Popular Iraqi TikToker Noor Alsaffar, who posted under the name Noor BM, has been fatally shot in Baghdad. The 23-year-old was killed on Monday, September 25, with a local security source confirming that “an investigation has been opened” and that “the deceased has been taken to the forensic department”.
Speaking to CNN, a spokesperson for the Iraqi police, Khaled Almehna, described the attack as a “criminal incident”, adding that “important updates” would be provided at a later time.
Alsaffar publicly identified as male and, on his channel, mostly shared videos and photos wearing dresses and showcasing different hair and makeup looks. The content often caused a flurry of questions about their gender and sexuality, as well as anti-LGBTQ+ fuelled criticism and harassment.
Speaking to the Al Walaa channel in 2020 about the threats they have received, the influencer said, “I’m not transgender and I’m not gay. I don’t have other tendencies, I’m only a cross-dresser and a model.” However, when Iraqi LGBTQ+ right group IraQueer posted about Alsaffar’s death on X, it described the TikToker as “queer” and used the hashtags “#Transphobia” and “#MurderOfTransPeople”.
According to the organisation, “an armed person riding a motorcycle fired three bullets at the vlogger, nicknamed Nour BM, in Al-Mansour area in Baghdad. The three bullets hit the victim’s neck and stomach areas which led to his immediate death.”
— IraQueer عراق كوير (@IraQueer) September 25, 2023
The crime comes as Iraq is cracking down on queer rights, and anti-LGBTQ+ violence is on the rise.
The country is currently attempting to ban homosexuality, with proposed amendments to its law on Combatting Prostitution, meaning that people convicted of “same-sex conduct” could be executed or imprisoned for life. Additionally, anyone found to be “promoting homosexuality” would face a minimum prison sentence of seven years as well as a substantial fine.
Gender-affirming care would also be banned, and attempting to change gender would be punishable by a minimum of one year of incarceration. Under the proposal, this would also apply to medical practitioners who try to administer treatment.
Speaking about the bill, Rasha Younes of Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it “would threaten the lives of Iraqis already facing a hostile environment” and urged the government to “immediately withdraw” it.
“Iraqi lawmakers are sending an appalling message to LGBT people that their speech is criminal and their lives are expendable,” Younes added.
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