Thursday, May 23, 2024

Controversial Iraqi TikTok influencer Umm Fahad shot and killed in Baghdad

HomeTop NewsControversial Iraqi TikTok influencer Umm Fahad shot and killed in Baghdad

A popular Iraqi social media personality known for her daring videos was shot and killed outside her home in Baghdad on Friday night, igniting outrage over the brazen attack and renewing concerns about the dangers faced by influencers and activists in the country.

Ghufran Sawadi, who gained a large following under the name Umm Fahad for her TikTok dance videos that challenged conservative norms, was struck by gunfire from a motorcycle-riding assailant in the Zayouna neighborhood, according to Iraqi police officials. Surveillance footage widely circulated online showed her collapsing to the ground as the gunman sped away.

The Interior Ministry vowed to form a special team to investigate the killing of Ms. Sawadi, whose case has drawn new scrutiny to the threats and violence towards social media creators in Iraq willing to push boundaries on women’s rights and secularism.

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“Her bold presence and body freedom challenged the strict patriarchal rules imposed on Iraqi women,” said Dina Hasan, an activist and friend of Ms. Sawadi’s. “She represented the voices of rural women who are still fighting to be seen, heard and allowed to exist in Iraq.”

Ms. Sawadi had a tumultuous relationship with Iraqi authorities over her online persona. In 2023, she was sentenced to six months in prison for “indecent” videos that authorities said violated the country’s moral codes, though she was released after serving just over a month.

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The sentence sparked protests from free speech advocates who warned it could embolden further crackdowns on content deemed objectionable by religious conservatives. Ms. Sawadi continued posting videos after her release that showcased her dancing choreography in tight jeans and crop tops without a headscarf.

The killing comes amid a recent wave of attacks targeting high-profile figures on Iraqi social media. Last September, another popular TikTok star known as Noor BM was gunned down in Baghdad, sparking both celebrations and condemnations among Iraqis debating issues around individual expression and Islamic values.

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No group immediately claimed responsibility for Friday’s shooting, though extremist militias operating in parts of Iraq’s capital have been blamed for other attacks meant to enforce strict moral edicts. Supporters and critics alike flooded social media with an outpouring of emotion over Ms. Sawadi’s death.

“This criminal act represents a desperate attempt to steal the voices and rights of a generation who have demanded dignity,” said Suha Arraf, director of the Iraqi Women Network. “But such cowardly violence will only strengthen the resolve for a free and just society.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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