Authorities pledge 'task force' to investigate

Iraqi female TikTok star shot dead in Baghdad

BAGHDAD – A gunman on a motorbike shot dead a well-known Iraqi social media influencer known as Om Fahad outside her Baghdad home on Friday.

An unidentified attacker shot Om Fahad, whose real name is Ghufran Sawadi, in her car in the Zayouna district, a security official said, requesting anonymity because he was not cleared to speak to the media.

Another security source said the attacker appeared to have pretended to be making a food delivery.

The federal interior ministry has pledged a “specialized task force to investigate the circumstances surrounding the murder of a well-known social media woman by unknown assailants in the Zayouna area.”

Om Fahad had become known for light-hearted TikTok videos of herself dancing to Iraqi music wearing tight-fitting clothes.

In February 2023, a court sentenced her to six months in jail for sharing “videos containing indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality.”

The Iraqi government launched a campaign last year to ‘clean up’ social media content that it said breached Iraqi “morals and traditions.”

An interior ministry committee was established to scour TikTok, YouTube, and other platforms for clips it deemed offensive.

Several influencers have since been arrested, according to authorities.

TikTok is hugely popular in Iraq, with some estimates showing that a solid majority of Iraqis use the app. Last month, Minister of Communications Hiam Al-Yasiri requested the app be banned.

Al-Yasiri stated in a statement that “the Ministry of Communications has submitted a request to the Council of Ministers to block the TikTok app because it has significantly contributed to the disintegration of the Iraqi social fabric and because it lacks any scientific or educational benefit, serving merely as an entertainment app.”

Despite years of war and sectarian conflict after the 2003 U.S. invasion to overthrew Saddam Hussein, Iraq has returned to a semblance of normality.

But civil liberties — for women, sexual minorities and other groups — remain constrained in the conservative society.

In 2018, model and influencer Tara Fares was shot dead by gunmen in Baghdad.

AFP contributed to this report.