Iraqi TikTok star Om Fahad shot dead in Baghdad night attack

The influencer, who had hundreds of thousands of followers, had been sentenced to six months in prison last year.

TikTok
Om Fahad, whose real name is Ghufran Sawadi, was popular on TikTok with nearly half a million followers for sharing videos of herself dancing to pop music. [File: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo]

An Iraqi TikTok star, known to hundreds of thousands of online followers as Om Fahad, has been shot dead in a late-night attack outside her home in eastern Baghdad’s Zayouna district.

Surveillance camera footage captured the attack on Friday, showing a lone assailant wearing dark clothing and a helmet getting off a motorcycle, walking towards a black SUV and shooting Om Fahad, who was sitting inside.

The Ministry of Interior said it had set up a team to investigate the circumstances of the killing.

Om Fahad, whose real name is Ghufran Sawadi, was popular on TikTok with nearly half a million followers for sharing videos of herself dancing to pop music.

In February 2023, she had been sentenced to six months in prison by a court that determined her videos contained “indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality”. Some of her videos generated more than one million views.

Five more online content creators also received prison terms ranging up to two years at the time, and investigations were launched against others.

This came after the Iraqi Interior Ministry in January 2023 launched a committee to discover “obscene and degrading content” posted online by influencers like Om Fahad in a stated effort to safeguard “morals and family traditions” in Iraqi society.

It also created an online platform where Iraqi users were encouraged to report any such content to be taken down. Authorities claimed at the time that the public welcomed the platform and tens of thousands of reports were registered by the public.

Some online content creators were forced to apologise and take down some of their content after the crackdown by the ministry.

The Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said in a report last year that it found no grounds for indictment of Om Fahad and that her content did not exceed the limits of her rights to freedom of opinion, expression or publication.

The independent organisation had expressed concern that “this campaign may extend to restricting public freedoms in the country, criminalising individuals’ criticism of officials or state institutions and legitimising the trial of political activists”.

Om Fahad is not the first Iraqi influencer to be shot amid the rising crackdown on online freedoms.

Noor Alsaffar, a 23-year-old TikToker with hundreds of thousands of followers, was shot dead in September 2023. Tara Fares, a 22-year-old model and influencer, was shot dead by gunmen in 2018.

Iraq has also seen a number of so-called “honour killings”, with 22-year-old YouTube star Tiba al-Ali strangled by her father last January.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies