Om Fahad: Iraqi social media influencer shot dead by motorbike gunman

A well-known Iraqi social media influencer has been shot dead in her car by a gunman who was on a motorbike.

Om Fahad, whose real name is Ghufran Sawadi, was killed outside her home in Baghdad's Zayouna district on Friday, according to the AFP news agency, citing security officials.

It appears the unidentified attacker pretended to be delivering food to the victim, one security source said.

Her assistant Nour al Suwaidi was injured in the shooting.

WARNING: This article contains images of a dead body

CCTV showed the gunman on a motorbike riding past the stationary car and then parking behind a nearby wall.

The attacker then got off his bike and, still wearing his crash helmet, walked several metres up to the vehicle before opening fire with a pistol. He then ran back to the bike and sped off.

Photos showed Om Fahad's body slumped in her seat and there were at least three bullet holes in a window of the car.

An investigation has been launched by the authorities into the circumstances of the killing as they try to track down the gunman.

Om Fahad, who has nearly half a million TikTok followers, became famous for posting light-hearted videos where she dances to Iraqi music.

Six days ago, she shared footage of herself driving in a car and also posing in front of a mirror. They have each been watched hundreds of thousands of times.

The influencer was sentenced to six months in prison in February last year for sharing videos that a court ruled contained "indecent speech that undermines modesty and public morality".

A campaign was launched in 2023 by the Iraqi government to clamp down on social media content which broke the country's "morals and traditions".

The interior ministry set up a committee to look for "offensive" clips on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, with several influencers being arrested.

"This type of content is no less dangerous than organised crime," the ministry declared in a promotional video which asked the public to help by reporting such content.

"It is one of the causes of the destruction of the Iraqi family and society."

Speaking last year, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan argued the morality campaign has "nothing to do with freedom of expression".

In 2018, gunmen in Baghdad shot dead Tara Fares, who was a model and influencer.

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After years of war and sectarian conflict following the 2003 US-led invasion that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq has returned to some semblance of normality despite sporadic violence, political instability and corruption.

But civil liberties, particularly among women and sexual minorities, are still constrained in a conservative and male-dominated society.