1 TikTok Star Is Killed in Third Death of Social Media Influencer in Iraq

The shooting of Ghufran Mahdi Sawadi, known online as Um Fahad, comes amid tightening laws and increasingly conservative attitudes in the country.- TikTok Star Is Killed

A smiling woman wearing a green coat and red head scarf.  TikTok Star Is Killed
Um Fahad, a TikTok celebrity, attending a soccer game in Basra, Iraq, last year.

Reporting from Baghdad

It took less than 46 seconds for the helmeted assassin to pull over his motorcycle, walk to the driver’s side of the S.U.V., yank open the door and fire his handgun four times, killing one of Iraq’s most prominent TikTok personalities, a 30-year-old woman whose name on social media was Um Fahad.

The security camera footage of the killing in front of a Baghdad home on Friday evening is startlingly explicit but sheds little light on either the killer’s identity or the reason Um Fahad was targeted. The Iraqi Interior Ministry, which released the video, said it had formed a committee to investigate her death.

The victim, whose real name was Ghufran Mahdi Sawadi, had become popular on social media sites, especially TikTok and Instagram, where her videos showed her wearing tight or revealing clothing, or singing and cuddling her young son. They won her some 460,000 followers, but also drew the ire of conservatives in Iraqi society and in the government.

At one point, officials ordered Ms. Sawadi jailed for 90 days, reprimanding her for a post that showed her dancing at her 6-year old son’s birthday party.

At her sparsely attended funeral, her brother, Ameer Mehdi Sawadi, said he had little faith that her killer would be caught.

“I can name many innocents who have been killed,” Mr. Sawadi said. “Have you heard anything about their case? Did they find the killer? No.”

Alissa J. Rubin covers climate change and conflict in the Middle East. She previously reported for more than a decade from Baghdad and Kabul, Afghanistan, and was the Paris bureau chief.


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