‘Modern witch-hunt’

Brutal assassination of Iraqi beauty queen in broad daylight appears to be part of larger ‘plan,’ P.M. warns

Tara al-Fares (Instagram)

Tara al-Fares, a beauty queen and social media star, was murdered last Thursday in Baghdad by a man on a motorcycle who pulled up to her car and shot her through the window three times, a brazen assassination that served as the latest in a number of killings targeting Iraqi women with large social media followings. The brazen attack was captured on video by security cameras.

The killing of Al-Fares, 22, came shortly after the murder of women’s rights activist Suad al-Ali, who was shot outside of her car in Basra two weeks ago. Two other Iraqi women with large social media presences, beauty clinic workers Rasha al-Hassan and Rafifi al-Yasiri, were also killed in August. Iraq’s acting prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has reportedly said that he believes the killings were part of an “organized plan,” and that he had directed law enforcement officials to put significant resources into discovering the culprits.

The death of Al-Fares, who boasted upwards of 2.7 million followers on Instagram, prompted impassioned responses on social media as some suggested that her murder reflected the larger public’s discomfort with the notion of women being allowed to live — and dress — independently, while others, including a state media employee who has since been fired for his comments, denounced her as a “whore.”

“Women are being hit left right and centre. Everywhere. We are living in the modern witch-hunt,” said Iraqi women’s rights activist Zainab Salbi, the leader of the Women for Women International in Washington and a frequent Women in the World contributor. “The enormous amount of messages I noticed on social media have made me sick. They say, ‘They deserved what they got because of their actions.’ People are accusing these girls of abusing their own freedoms. But it is the understanding of freedom that is being abused. The families are being forced to defend themselves instead of mourn their loss and this is wrong.”

Meanwhile, in the days since the killing of Al-Fares, the former 2015 Miss Iraq, Shimaa Qasim, says she received a chilling text message that warn she “would be next,” according to The London Evening Standard. Qasim was seen in a short video posted on social media coming to tears as she worried about her own safety and that of other young women in Iraq. In the video she reportedly says Al-Fares was a “martyr” and she cautioned that all women are in danger of being “slaughtered like chickens.”

Al-Fares had reportedly received threatening messages about a perceived lack of modesty — her Instagram page features numerous photos of her wearing tight-fitting clothing, makeup and showing off her body tattoos. Qasim’s Instagram account is similar in that respect, leading some to speculate, according to the BBC, that religious extremists are targeting the women.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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