Iraq investigates killing of TikTok influencer in Baghdad

Om Fahad was reportedly shot by an unidentified person on a motorbike

Iraqi TikTok celebrity Om Fahad, who was jailed last year during an Iraq government internet clean-up campaign on grounds of offending public decency, was shot dead on Friday. AFP
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Iraq's Interior Ministry said it was investigating the killing of an Iraqi TikTok influencer in Baghdad.

A “specialised work team” had been set up to investigate the circumstances of the death of Om Fahad, who was shot dead in her car in the Zayouna neighbourhood, the ministry said in a statement.

Om Fahad, whose real name is Ghufran Sawadi, was shot by an unidentified assailant from a motorbike on Friday.

In February last year, a court sentenced Fahad to six months in prison for sharing “videos containing indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality”.

The Iraqi government began a campaign last year to clean up social media content that it said breached Iraqi “morals and traditions”.

An Interior Ministry committee was established to scour TikTok, YouTube, and other platforms for clips it deemed offensive.

Several influencers have since been arrested, according to authorities.

Despite years of war and sectarian conflict after the 2003 US invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq has returned to a semblance of normality.

But civil liberties – for women, sexual minorities and other groups – are constrained by conservative society.

In 2018, model and influencer Tara Fares was murdered by gunmen in Baghdad.

TikTok's short-form videos have won a worldwide following. It is one of the most popular apps Iraq for users across the social spectrum.

According to the global social media-focused creative agency, We Are Social, there were 31.95 million users in TikTok in Iraq as of February – a majority of Iraq's 44.5 million population.

TikTok bans

Countries have raised concerns about TikTok's parent company's relationship with the Chinese government and its hold over user data.

The US took a step towards banning TikTok on Tuesday, as the Senate passed a bill that could force ByteDance to sell the social media platform.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed the bill containing the potential ban, which was part of a $95 billion foreign aid package.

India and Pakistan have banned TikTok.

It also faces increasing scrutiny in the EU over its TikTok Like Rewards programme in France and Spain, which pays users to spend time on the app.

The European Commission has already opened proceedings against TikTok to consider if it has broken EU law.

Canada and Australia banned TikTok on government-owned devices last year, while the Taliban banned the app in Afghanistan in 2022.

Several countries already have either full or partial TikTok bans, linked to the platform's Chinese ownership.

Updated: April 27, 2024, 9:19 AM