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Exploiting the vulnerable, even in death: nude photos of murdered social media influencer Om Fahd set dangerous precedent

For Om Fahd and her family, the exploitation of her image holds broad social implications. It sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the rights and dignity of all individuals. In particular, it threatens the marginalized and vulnerable. By condoning such behavior, we risk normalizing a culture of exploitation and voyeurism. In this culture, privacy no longer matters, and we disregard consent.

  • 3 weeks ago
  • June 30, 2024
After being murdered, social media influencer Om Fahd's nudge photos from the morgue were leaked publicly. | Morgue photo by Sharon Lawsona courtesy of Unsplash After being murdered, social media influencer Om Fahd's nudge photos from the morgue were leaked publicly. | Morgue photo by Sharon Lawsona courtesy of Unsplash
This Op-Ed is one in a series aimed at shedding light on critical global issues that demand urgent attention and address a spectrum of challenges affecting us all, emphasizing the need for collective action and support. By fostering awareness and encouraging collaboration, the writer hopes to inspire positive change and contribute to a more compassionate and equitable world as we cover the multitude of issues that impact our global community.

The killing of Iraqi social media influencer Om Fahd outside her home in Baghdad shocked the nation, sparking a wave of condemnation around the world. Her vibrant presence on social media and her echoing laughter on TikTok were silenced by the cruel hands of violence. Om Fahd was shot dead outside her home on April 26, 2024. Her life was taken in a moment of senseless brutality.

Tragically, the persecution of Om Fahd continued even after her death. Someone leaked her nude photos from the morgue, pushing the case down a much darker path. Such a despicable act not only aggravates the tragedy but violates the dignity and rights of the deceased. Publishing those images becomes like a form of desecration.

[Om Fahd had nearly 84,000 followers on TikTok and some of her videos garnered millions of views.]

What was Om Fahd’s crime?

Last April, 30-year-old Om Fahd, whose real name was Ghufran Mahdi Sawadi, died by gunfire inside her car near her home in central Baghdad. The unknown killer shot her from the seat of a motorcycle. Om’s is the story of a mother who left behind young children. Savages then desecrated her grave by dancing on it and mocking her.

Om Fahd’s journey was marked by difficulties but what was her crime? Om merely expressed herself, dancing to the rhythm of Iraqi music and wearing clothes that made her feel confident. For this, she faced persecution, imprisonment, and ultimately, a tragic end at the hands of an unknown assailant.

In February 2023, an Iraqi court sentenced Om Fahd to six months in prison. The charges included “publishing several films and videos containing obscene statements and clothing that violate modesty and public morals and displaying them to the public via social media sites.” We do not know specifically what constitutes modest dress in the Arab world. Nor do we know why authorities demand a dress code only of women.

Om Fahd’s profile picture on her public social media accounts.

Opinions vary from one social class and religious group to another. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior previously announced the formation of a committee to monitor “obscene and insulting content” on social media sites. They say some of this content “offends public taste and violates morals and traditions” in the largely conservative Iraqi society.

The government created a platform for internet users to report such posts. As a result, social media activists have been sentenced to prison or forced to apologize for the content they posted online, which was sometimes nothing more than humorous or satirical videos.

Om Fahd was only the latest in a series of assassinations of influential figures on social media in Iraq. The list includes many names including Tara Fares, Rafif Al-Yasiri, Rasha Al-Hassan, Noor BM, and Fayrouz Azad.

Publishing photos of Om Fahd’s dead, naked body set a dangerous precedent

For Om Fahd and her family, the exploitation of her image holds broad social implications. It sets a dangerous precedent that threatens the rights and dignity of all individuals. In particular, it threatens the marginalized and vulnerable. By condoning such behavior, we risk normalizing a culture of exploitation and voyeurism. In this culture, privacy no longer matters, and we disregard consent.

Leaking nude photos of Om Fahd after her murder not only violates her privacy. It violates her very essence, causing her soul immeasurable wounds. It also creates profound pain on top of the already unbearable burden her family and loved ones’ bear.

Shockingly, things went even further. People went to her grave after the burial to dance on it and mock her. This woman had no way to defend herself. As the public mourns the loss of Om Fahd, we stand in solidarity with her and her family and loved ones. We must reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of every individual, whether in life or death.

Let us condemn this deplorable act in the strongest possible terms and strive to create a society where such violations are not only denounced but prevented through strong safeguards and accountability measures. We must also condemn in the strongest terms the exploitation and degradation of her memory. Every individual, regardless of their choices or beliefs, deserves dignity and respect in life and death.

Om Fahd serves as a siren call for the relentless pursuit of freedom from oppression

Om Fahd’s story becomes a sobering wake-up call. It shines a much-needed spotlight on the deep-rooted, systemic issues of oppression that plague some conservative societies. Her case serves as a powerful reminder of the urgent need to confront and address these fundamental problems head-on, rather than allowing them to persist unchecked.

This troubling situation underscores the importance of vigilance, advocacy, and a sustained commitment to enacting meaningful change and ensuring justice for all. Om’s story underscores the need for greater accountability and oversight, particularly within institutions entrusted with handling sensitive information.

The unauthorized release of her photos from the morgue raises serious questions about the integrity of the healthcare system and the measures in place to protect the privacy of the deceased. If medical professionals or staff members participated in the dissemination of these images they must face severe consequences. They breached the trust and ethical standards expected of their profession.

It is imperative authorities hold them accountable for their actions and take steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring. Om Fahd’s story may have ended in tragedy, but her legacy serves as a symbol for resilience, courage, and the relentless pursuit of freedom. May she rest in peace and may her soul dance among the stars forever.

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