Iraqi TikTok star Om Fahad shot dead outside her Baghdad home

An Iraqi TikTok star known to her followers as Om Fahad was fatally shot in a late-night attack outside her home in Baghdad, authorities said.

A lone assailant on a motorbike approached Fahad, whose legal name is Ghufran Sawadi, as she sat in a black SUV on Friday night. He fired shots inside the car before running off, according to security camera footage aired by Iraqi TV.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it set up a team to investigate the killing. No arrests have been made.

Fahad became popular on TikTok with nearly half a million followers and videos of herself dancing to Iraqi music and showing her daily life.

Last year, the Iraqi government launched a campaign to clear social media content it said violated “morals and traditions.”

A committee was established to scan social platforms for clips it deemed offensive. The government also created Balgh, an online platform where users could report content to be taken down.

Fahad was among six Iraqi content creators last year to receive prison terms ranging from six months to two years for “offending morals and public decency.” Authorities opened investigations into eight other creators. Some were forced to apologize and take down their content.

A report by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, a Geneva-based nonprofit, found the trial was marked by vague charges and had no grounds for indictment.

This isn’t the first time a popular Iraqi social media content creator has been killed.

In 2018, Tara Fares, a model and Instagram creator with over 2 million followers, was shot dead in broad daylight in her car in Baghdad. No arrests were made in the case. The Interior minister at the time accused “extreme outlaw groups” of being behind the killing.

While Iraq’s constitution protects freedom of expression and the press, it stipulates that such speech must “not violate public order and morals.”

TikTok is one of the most popular social platforms in Iraq, used by nearly 32 million people, according to the Iraqi Digital Media Center, an independent monitoring group.

The platform has sparked controversy in recent years for what officials call the “disintegration of the Iraqi social fabric.” The Communications Ministry in March requested it be banned.

Snell reported from Washington and Salim reported from Baghdad.

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