Who was Om Fahad and why was she murdered?

Iraqi authorities are conducting an investigation into the tragic killing of Ghufran Mahdi Sawadi, a well-known social media influencer affectionately known as Om Fahad, or “mother of Fahad.”

Sawadi was renowned for her presence on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. With nearly half a million TikTok followers, she gained fame for sharing cheerful videos in which she dances to Iraqi music.

The tragic incident

Sawadi was shot dead by an armed motorcyclist outside her residence in central Baghdad.

The assailant reportedly fired upon Sawadi as she parked her Cadillac in front of her home on Friday, taking her phone before fleeing the scene.

Sawadi’s tragic death echoes a similar fate suffered by another prominent social media figure, Noor Alsaffar, also known as “Noor BM,” who was fatally shot in central Baghdad last year.

Witnesses, including a neighbor identified only as Abu Adam, described the horrifying scene, with Sawadi found lying on the steering wheel of her car after the attack.

Recently, tensions rose between Fahad and fellow influencer Dalia Naeem. Naeem, also recognized as “Iraqi Barbie” for her numerous plastic surgeries, had been making threats to reveal Fahad’s purported ties to senior Iraqi officials.

Moreover, Om Fahad face previously faced legal consequences due to her online activities. In February 2023, an Iraqi court sentenced her to six months in prison for what it deemed “indecent speech undermining modesty and public morality” in her videos, despite some of them garnering over a million views.

Crackdown on content creators

The crackdown on online content creators also led to additional prison terms for five others. The Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor voiced concern about this campaign, arguing that Om Fahad’s content fell within her rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and publication.

The organization worried that such actions could curtail public freedoms, criminalize criticism of officials, and justify the prosecution of political activists.

The details surrounding Om Fahad’s demise are currently being investigated by a specialized team.

In recent years, the role of social media influencers in Iraq has expanded beyond beauty and fashion promotion to include advocacy for government initiatives.

The use of influencers in official government capacities has been a subject of controversy, with recent backlash following videos featuring influencers at sensitive military sites.

Separately, the Iraqi parliament passed an amendment to the country’s prostitution law, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

The amended law now imposes harsh penalties, ranging from 10 to 15 years in prison, for same-sex relations, a significant departure from a previous version that included the death penalty.

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