Popular Iraqi TikTok star shot dead as country tightens anti-LGBTQ+ laws

Iraq is clamping down on LGBTQ+ rights.

A popular Iraqi TikTok star who had faced repeated questions about their gender and sexuality has been fatally shot in the capital city of Baghdad.

The devastating incident comes as Iraq clamps down on LGBTQ+ conduct and anti-LGBTQ+ violence ramps up across the country.

Content creator Noor Alsaffar, who went by Noor Bm on TikTok, publicly identified as male, but mostly posted content wearing dresses and showing off hair and makeup looks, prompting questions and often criticism from viewers.

Alsaffar’s death is being treated as a “criminal incident”, Iraqi police spokesperson Khaled Almehna told CNN, noting that “important updates” would be provided at a later time.

Another Iraqi security source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity since they had not been authorised to speak to the press, told the news publication “the deceased has been taken to the forensic department” and that an “investigation has been opened.”

Alsaffar, 23, had repeatedly been subject to anti-LGBTQ+-fuelled criticism and online harassment as a result of the style of content posted on their social media.

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In an interview with Iraq’s Al Walaa channel back in 2020, Alsaffar, who worked as a makeup artist, spoke candidly about the threats they were bombarded with as a result of their appearance.

Alsaffar went on to clarify: “I’m not transgender and I’m not gay. I don’t have other tendencies, I’m only a cross-dresser and a model.”

When IraQueer, an Iraq-based LGBTQ+ rights group, posted about Alsaffar’s death on X (formerly Twitter), they described the TikTok star as a “queer Iraqi vlogger” and using the hashtags “#Transphobia” and “#MurderOfTransPeople”.

Alsaffar’s death comes in the wake of Iraq’s bid to ban homosexuality.

If passed, the proposed amendments to Iraq’s Law on Combatting Prostitution could see people found guilty of “same-sex conduct” executed or faced with life in prison.

Additionally, anyone found “promoting homosexuality” would be sentenced to a minimum of seven years in prison, as well as a substantial fine.

Gender-affirming care would also be outlawed, with attempts to change gender identity being punishable by a minimum of one year in prison. This would also apply to medical practitioners who administer gender-affirming care.

Charities and human rights groups have urged the Iraqi government to put a halt to this law being passed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Iraqi government to “immediately withdraw” the proposed bill.

“Iraq’s proposed anti-LGBT law would threaten the lives of Iraqis already facing a hostile environment,” said HRW’s LGBTQ+ rights researcher Rasha Younes.

“Iraqi lawmakers are sending an appalling message to LGBT people that their speech is criminal and their lives are expendable.”