A 21-year-old medical student was killed in Algeria in a suspected homophobic hate crime, sparking outrage among activists.
Assil Belalta was reportedly found dead in his dorm room at the Cité Universitaire (University City) of Ben Aknoun in Algiers on Sunday night, with "He is gay" smeared on the wall with his own blood.
The perpetrators - reportedly two - allegedly slit his throat and fled the scene using Belalta's car.
Whether or not the victim belonged to the LGBTQI+ community is yet to be confirmed, but according to QNews, he had expressed interest in both men and women on social media.
Authorities, including the Minister of Higher Education Tahar Hadjar, had rushed to the crime scene to investigate the murder. An official report is yet to be released.
Police said investigations are currently underway, assuring they have mobilized all their resources to identify the assailants "as soon as possible."
Students gathered at the Faculty of Medicine Ziania on Monday to pay tribute to the victim, after which they went on a silent march towards the university dormitories.
"Institutional and state homophobia"
In a statement shared on Facebook, LGBTQI+ rights group Alouen wrote that public officials as well as media outlets play a significant role in promoting homophobia.
"This institutional and state homophobia is becoming commonplace," the group wrote.
This comes as same-sex relationships are illegal in Algeria. According to Article 338 of the country's penal code, "Anyone guilty of participating in a homosexual act will be punished to imprisonment between two months and two years and a fine of 500 ($0.42) - 2,000 dinars ($1.68)."
Members of the LGBTQI+ community continue to struggle in the Arab world
Just as in most countries throughout the world, the community faces harassment and oppression in the Arab world.
In many Arab countries, engaging in same-sex relationships can subject one to imprisonment. In more severe cases, they are faced with the death penalty.
Still, Arab LGBTQI+ individuals are making progress towards social acceptance, with more and more members gathering up the courage to publicly express themselves and speak up on the behalf of the community.