Social media is such a prevalent part of today’s society, even in war-torn places such as Iraq, but the type of photos and overall content you post in places like that still matters. To be completely frank, women especially have to watch their backs whenever they post something, making sure it isn’t “too provocative” or “too immodest.” Because if it is, it just might get you killed — toxic masculinity is alive and well across the globe.
Tara Fares was the latest female from Iraq’s beauty scene to fall victim of senseless gun violence in her homeland. She was tragically shot dead in broad daylight on September 27th, whilst driving through Baghdad’s Kam Sarah district. She was only 22; just barely getting a taste of life before it was cut much too short by someone who probably didn’t even know her personally. The extra frightening part is that Iraqi Women’s Rights activists are noticing a trend in these killings, as four other successful and influential Iraqi women have been murdered recently. They are worried that another innocent woman in the public eye will fall victim soon.
I shudder at this story, because it makes me realize yet again how some men (and some women) truly believe that women who don’t dress well enough for their taste, or don’t follow the unwritten moral code of society written for women are better off dead.
Prosecutors investigating Tara’s death haven’t released a motive yet and they haven’t made an arrest in the killing, but once again, speculators believe she was a victim of “too much fame” and “too many” photos posted of her lavish and “non-traditional” lifestyle. By this, they simply meant that the life she chose to lead didn’t exactly reflect the lifestyle that some Iraqis expect young women to maintain. She pushed boundaries with her photos and captions, not afraid to be who she wanted to be, and not completely conforming to her surroundings because that’s what made her happy. But she also made it abundantly clear that she was very proud of her Iraqi heritage, competing in the Miss Baghdad and Miss Iraq beauty pageants representing her country. Occasionally, she would post photos with the Iraqi flag and write about her homeland, often sharing condolences whenever an attack on Iraq’s people occurred. “Five minutes of time, read Surah Faitha on the souls of Iraq martyrs. God have mercy on them”, she wrote under one of her posts, never expecting to sadly become one of them so soon.
I shudder at this story, because it makes me realize yet again how some men (and some women) truly believe that women who don’t dress well enough for their taste, or don’t follow the unwritten moral code of society written for women are better off dead. Could this really be why Tara and many other women were killed? I want to believe it isn’t true, but in my heart I know it’s unlikely. Robbery could be a motive for her killing, but the notable timing and nature of her killing, as well as what seems to be a string of similar murders suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, she was murdered in cold-blood for reasons that no one could possibly justify, and nothing will bring her or the other women back.
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of her until I heard of her death, but judging from the 2.8 million Instagram followers that she had accrued, I would say that she had a lot of people looking up to her and wanting to be like her, and if that’s a crime then I don’t know what kind of world we live in. She was even vocal about the abuse she endured at the young age of 16 by her then husband, hoping to reach other girls and women who were going through similar situations. What’s ironic is that her husband allegedly posted intimate photos of her online, but what she took away from the ordeal is that she was stronger than she thought, and wasn’t going to let anyone control her in anything anymore. Rapists walk free every day, when women who do nothing more than share their free spirits and open minds with the world have to pay with their lives. It infuriates me, sitting here, thinking of the possible reasons Tara could’ve been murdered, each option going through my head a little more pathetic than the next. “How desperate/insecure do you have to be that Tara was a threat to you? The fragile masculinity of those who have access to arms in Iraq is staggering,” Twitter user Rasha Al Aqeedi wrote upon hearing the news of her death. Ahmad Al-Basheer, a famous Iraqi satirist, shared his thoughts as well: “Anyone who finds excuses for those who kill a girl just because she had decided to live like most other girls on the planet is an accomplice to her murder.”
But what can we do about these sorts of injustices? People have easy access to weapons, and the belief that they have justifiable motives, making it quite feasible to carry out attacks like this one. Women should be able to use their own social media as they please, so that isn’t the issue at hand. So what’s going to change? Will we have to keep enduring the news of heinous murders of innocent women, dying only for the fact that they “tarnished” their own images and the image of their country? Some say Tara’s death screams “discrimination, lack of freedom and rights,” while even Arab News said that Tara was killed for “daring to be female in Baghdad.”
As hard as this is to swallow, it’s a discussion that needs to be had; how can we, in today’s generation, let the personal beliefs and fallacies of certain people conquer all? Are we ever going to truly acknowledge that although the faiths that we follow don’t promote oppression of women, many governments and men in high positions of power do? How do we separate cultural beliefs from religious beliefs, and subsequently both cultural beliefs and religious beliefs from the base of societal structure? I wish I had some sort of solace to provide with regards to this matter, and I wish I could say with certainty that Tara Fares will be the last soul taken for living life on her own terms, but I can’t. I wish I could say for sure that what Tara was promoting on her social media pages wasn’t the culprit for the shooting, but I can’t. I can only hope that there will be a day when us women will be entirely free – free to break the mold and wear what we desire, do our hair as we please, cover up as much as we please, speak out about what we’re passionate about, and more – and won’t have to live in fear of something like this happening to us, too. Rest in Peace, Tara Fares. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.