x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Iraqi beauty queen receives death threats following murders of high profile women

Shaimaa Qasim says women are 'being slaughtered like chickens'

Iraqi beauty queen Shaimaa Qasim. AFP
Iraqi beauty queen Shaimaa Qasim. AFP

A former Iraqi beauty queen said she received death threats, days after a social media star was shot dead in Baghdad.

Shaimaa Qasim, who was crowned Miss Iraq in 2015, spoke through tears in a video broadcast online on Monday, saying she fears for her life.

“Is it our fault that we are famous on social media? We are being slaughtered like chickens," Ms Qasim said, adding that she had received a message warning her that her she would be next.

The threat came four days after Tara Fares, a 22-year old model who had nearly three million followers on Instagram, was shot dead in the street.

Ms Fares, a former Miss Baghdad and runner-up for Miss Iraq, was living in the Kurdistan region, but had spent more time in Baghdad recently.

Ms Qasim called Ms Fares a "martyr" and begged the public to give her privacy through this "difficult period".

"I just want to live in peace ... I'm tired of this," Ms Qasim told her Instagram followers.

Ms Fares's murder cam just two days after the assassination of Soad Al Ali, a 46-year-old mother of four and human rights activist, who was killed in the southern city of Basra.

The shooting followed the mysterious deaths of the managers of two of Baghdad's most high profile beauty centres.

Rafeef Al Yassiri, who was sometimes called the "Barbie of Iraq", encouraged women to gain their independence by changing their appearance. After she was found dead at her home, Iraqi officials claimed she died of a drug overdose.

A week later Rasha Al Hassan, founder of the Viola Beauty Centre, was also found dead at her house.

Despite ongoing investigations, the causes of their deaths remain undetermined.

Hanna Edwar, founder of the Iraqi Al Amal association, a human rights foundation, and a prominent activist, told The National that Iraqi women were increasingly being targeted.

"What has happened to these four women is a crime against humanity. This is increasingly worrying, to the level of direct killing in broad daylight is dangerous," Ms Edwar said.

Iraqi-American women's rights advocate and founder of Women for Women International, Zainab Salbi, agreed.

"Women are being hit left, right and centre, everywhere. We are living in the modern witch hunt," Ms Salbi said on Twitter.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi acknowledged the killings were not random, saying there was "evidence suggesting that there is a plan formulated by organised parties to undermine security under the pretext of fighting against depravity".

He has pledged to hunt down the killers.