TikTok [@noorbmworld]

Noor Alsaffar, a celebrated Iraqi TikTok star, was shot dead on Monday in Baghdad, amid crackdown on the LGBTQIA+ community.

Content warning: This story may include topics that could make some readers feel uncomfortable.

An Iraqi security source has told CNN that “an investigation has been opened”. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to the network as they were not authorised to speak to the media, they said “the deceased has been taken to the forensic department.”

The TikToker, known on social media as “Noor BM”, 23, had accumulated a following of over 370,000 across Instagram and TikTok. Alsaffar’s content was centred around lifestyle, style and GRWM videos.

Khaled Almehna, spokesperson for the Iraqi police, described the attack as a “criminal incident” on Tuesday, adding that he will provide “important updates” at a later time.

The death of Alsaffar falls amidst the proposition of a bill banning homosexuality in Iraq being re-submitted to its parliament.

It was presented by Mortada Al-Saadi, the Deputy Head of the Committee on Legal Affairs in Baghdad’s federal parliament, who officially submitted it to the Speaker of the Iraqi parliament.

Delivered on 3 July, Al-Saadi’s letter asks that the bill be included in the upcoming legislative agenda, which was scheduled for September.

The bill’s introduction follows Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the nationalist Sadrist movement, announcing plans to rally support for a ban on homosexuality from Iraqi citizens, the independent Erbil-based news agency Basnews reported.

Although being queer is not currently banned under Iraqi legislation, it is reported that LGBTQIA+ people are often targeted under morality clauses in the penal code.

Furthermore, LGBTQIA+ people are not offered any legal protections against discrimination in Iraq and following British occupation of the country, strict sodomy laws were put in place which remained after independence was achieved.

In 2020, Alsaffar was interviewed on Iraq’s Al Walaa channel and 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.”

This in turn led to a flurry of online abuse and questioning around his gender and sexual identity, which in turn Alsaffar spoke about online.

A Human Rights Report has explored the new phenomenon of digital targeting and the offline implication for LGBTQIA+ people in the Middle East and North Africa.

The report highlighted the new inclusion of “digital targeting tactics to traditional methods of targeting LGBT people, such as street-level harassment, arrests, and crackdowns, to enable the arbitrary arrest and consequent prosecution of LGBT people.”

The impact of this and the absence of rigorous legal protection and online regulation “quells LGBT expression online and offline”, the report suggested.

Iraqi LGBTQIA+ rights group IraQueer took to Twitter and said: “The murder of the queer Iraqi vlogger Nour BM.

“Today afternoon, the twenty-fifth of September, 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.”

The statement was accompanied by the hashtags “#IraQueer #Iraq #NourBM #Transphobia #MurderOfTransPeople #MurderInIraq #IraqiVlogger.”