A gay man has revealed he now fears for his life after he was arrested wearing a dress and wig in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.
Chafik Lafrid, 33, who had kept his sexuality a secret as being gay is illegal in Morocco, said his life has become a nightmare after he was detained on New Year’s Eve.
Footage of the moment he was handcuffed by police then went viral on social media, and not only outing him as a some-time cross-dresser but effectively as a homosexual.
Chafik Lafrid said he fears for his life after a picture of himself wearing a dress and a wig went viral
Mr Lafrid now wants to leave the country as he fears for his safety after his address was published online.
‘I had an image of Morocco as a country that respects difference. What happened changed my mind,’ he said.
Footage of the arrest, in which Mr Lafrid, wearing a short blue dress, is handcuffed and escorted away in front of a crowd, has been viewed millions of times.
He said the police did nothing to intervene as the crowd filmed and insulted him.
Mr Lafrid, an administrator at a private medical clinic, had been driving home from a party when a scooter reportedly slammed into his car.
A police officer arrived at the scene and ordered him to step out of the vehicle, but the motorist, wearing a lace dress, a curly wig and makeup, refused.
‘The policeman broke the window with his baton and forced me out of the car,’ he said.
‘He took off my wig, dragged me to the ground and handcuffed me.’
A journalist for a Marrekesh news website, who was accompanying the police patrol, then filmed the scene.
At the police station, officers took his photo, checked his identity and questioned him about the accident. He was then released.
The rider of the scooter sustained minor injuries but did not press charges, and Mr Lafrid faces no further legal action over the incident.
But the next day, images of his arrest, the photos taken by police and his personal documents went viral on social media.
Mr Lafrid, interviewed in the capital Rabat because he did not want to be filmed in his home city, said he now fears for his safety.
‘My address has been published on the Internet, any fundamentalist could come and try to harm me,’ he said.
He said his relationship with his parents, who had no idea about his secret life, was destroyed, and he feels ‘humiliated’ and ‘in shock’.
After consulting a psychiatrist, he was granted a month’s sick leave for depression.
Mr Lafrid, who occasionally dresses in woman’s clothes, said he had kept his sexuality a secret until that night because homosexuality is illegal in Morocco
His boss, colleagues and patients at the clinic where he works have sent messages of support.
But since the night of the accident, he has been living ‘in fear of being recognised’, he said.
He wears men’s clothes and dons a baseball cap to make his face less visible.
Mr Lafrid has even sought help from a local campaign group, the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms (MALI).
Ibtissam Lachgar, the movement’s joint coordinator, said Mr Lafrid’s experience reflects the homophobia in Moroccan society and in the state.
‘The state’s representatives that night reflected that homophobia,’ Ms Lachgar said.
Moroccan Police have sanctioned four Marrakesh officers for ‘breach of professional obligations’ over the leaking of Mr Lafrid’s identity.
Official figures show that in 2017, 197 people were prosecuted under Article 489 of the Moroccan penal code, which bans same-sex relations and imposes penalties if convicted of between six months to three years imprisonment.
‘Every day, we receive testimonies from LGBT people who have been attacked,’ Ms Lachgar said.
‘Quite a number of them want to seek asylum (outside Morocco), and many have already left.’
She called on the state to scrap Article 489 and do ‘real substantive work to allow a change of mentality’.