By Zhelwan Z. Wali
This screenshot from Instragram shows, Iraqi model Tara Fares who was killed in Baghdad on September 27, 2018. Photo: @its.tarafares IG
Women shattering social stereotypes in conservative societies in the Muslim world and in a country like Iraq must not go unpunished. The gruesome killing of Tara Fares, a photo model, is just the latest in a string of similar murders of Iraqi women in the public eye by unknown gunmen — the hidden ISIS.
Fares, 22, lived in Erbil, but regularly visited the Iraqi capital. She was murdered in her car in Baghdad on Thursday. She recently was voted as the sixth most popular Iraqi on social media. Fares had won beauty pageants in Baghdad with nearly 3 million followers on Instagram.The Iraqi interior ministry condemned the act and said it launched an investigation into the incident. However, similar probes have brought no justice allowing anonymous perpetrators to walk free and continue such heinous acts.
With her liberal and sometimes revealing style of modeling, she challenged a society deeply rooted in conservative ideas. Sometimes posing with photos of the Iraqi flag she displayed great courage and bravery to the world, sending a message that she was not a terrorist or corrupt, but instead was projecting peace and beauty.
Her murder drew condemnation among peace lovers in Iraq and abroad. Others commended the act calling her a “whore” who deserved to be shot dead.
Fares’ fans took to social media to condemn the cowardly killing.
A journalist working for state-run al-Iraqiya TV Haider Zawyyer commended the killing when he tweeted a “whore” was shot dead. He then deleted the tweet and Twitter deleted his account. On Friday, his channel condemned the vulgarity in the tweet.
Her murder came weeks after the killing of Suad al-Ali, an Iraqi human rights activist who was shot and killed in her car in the southern city of Basra.
The recent systematic targeting of beauty salons in the Iraqi capital and Fares’ killing reminds Iraqis of the killing of Rafeef al-Yaseri a beautician and Rasha al-Hassan, a cosmetics expert in August — these murderers also have not been found or detained by police.
It is difficult to change such mentality in a society that sees women as being so inferior to men and it greatly hinder any strides toward cultural and societal development.
Such acts are equivalent to the brutality of ISIS when extremist ideology permitted the raping, killing, and trafficking of women. That extremist mentality remains which validates honor killings by people who believe they must commit the acts to cleanse and protect society from women deemed to be “whores.”
Unlike other traditions in Iraq, the Kurdish culture, better embraces various colors, ideas and developments as Kurds, Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, Muslims, seculars and atheists live side-by-side peacefully with security apparatus treating the groups as one.
Beyond Fares, a Christian, her community has suffered repeated persecution and threats for their faith at the hands of different Iraqi regimes, forcing many of them abandon home and seek asylum abroad or resettle in the Kurdistan Region.
Insecurity and instability has dominated Iraq over the last three decades. The last census in Iraq was in 1987, when 1.5 million Christians were counted. By some estimates just 100,000 remain.
Women in Iraq have been institutional victims of sectarian religious conflicts, Islamic law, cultural traditions and even the Iraqi constitution. To end this growing and dangerous trend, the Iraqi government must implement serious measures against the systematic targeting of well-known or famous women and beauty centers in the name of defending the “honor” of a country, city, tribe, or family.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.