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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Suspect arrested in murder of Iraqi social media influencer 

Close friends of Tara Fares say her online presence led to her death

 

A viewer looks at the profile page of Iraqi model and Instagram starlet Tara Fares in Baghdad. AFP
A viewer looks at the profile page of Iraqi model and Instagram starlet Tara Fares in Baghdad. AFP

A man has been arrested in connection with the murder of an Iraqi social media influencer and model who was gunned down in central Baghdad on Thursday.

Tara Fares, 22, was one of Iraq's most visible online social media stars, with close to 3 million Instagram followers. She suffered three fatal bullet wounds as she drove through Baghdad's Camp Sarah district.

Some Twitter users believe she was a victim of her fame and targeted because of her lifestyle, showcased on her Instagram page, which shows pictures of her tattoos, dyed hair and adventurous clothing.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman said late on Friday they had detained and interrogated a suspect, local media reported. Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said they had taken rapid measures to find the assailants following a call by Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to open an investigation and obtain results within 48 hours.

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"Her presence on social media is the reason why she was killed," a close friend of Fares, Haidar Al Khazali told The National.

According to Mr Al Khazali, 26, the young model had recently confided in him, saying: "there are a lot of enemies opposing my work, they fight against me because of my presence on social networks."

"I consider the killing of Tara as a threatening message to all Iraqis. The killers want to tell us that there is nothing that can stop them. I am sorrowful for what happened," said 29-year-old Osamah Jameel from Baghdad.

The young fashionista with 2.7 million followers on Instagram was based in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, but travelled to her native Baghdad regularly.

"I feel sad and sorry for my people," human rights activist Ithar Abed, 23, said. "First of all because we speak about invisible hands committing crimes. Second, I feel sad because they kill any beauty that exists in Iraq. This killing is inhumane."

A screenshot from a video posted by Tara Fares on her Youtube channel.
A screenshot from a video posted by Tara Fares on her Youtube channel.

Ms Fares' murder came just two days after the murder of Soad Al Ali, 46, a female human rights activist in the southern city of Basra. Mrs Al Ali, a mother of four, was also gunned down on the street.

A shop owner who witnessed the killing said: "I saw a vehicle and two men in their twenties. One was aboard, while the other waited near Soad Al Ali's car. When she approached her car and pressed the button to open it, the man shot her two times in the head."

Mrs Al Ali headed Al Wid Al Alaiami For Human Rights in Basra, an organisation looking to "develop and advance society".

In August two beauticians in Baghdad died under mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that women who do not conform to Iraq's traditional gender roles were being purposefully targeted.

"How desperate, insecure do you have to be that Tara was a threat to you? The fragile masculinity of those who have access to arms in Iraq is staggering," tweeted Rasha Al Aqeedi, an Iraqi woman from Mosul.

Security camera footage said to be of Ms Fares' killing shows a man briefly leaning into the window of a white Porsche convertible before jumping on the back of a motorcycle. The car then veers slowly towards the side of the road as a passerby rushes towards it.

"Tara loved everyone and never discriminated between sects or nationalities," said Ms Fares' friend Mr Al Khazali. "There is no future in Iraq, unfortunately we were born in this country. Every day we lose someone close to us."