‘I’M NOT AFRAID’: Tragic last post of ‘Iraqi Barbie’
"I'M not afraid of the one who denies the existence of God, but I'm really afraid of the one who kills and chops off heads to prove the existence of God."
That's what Tara Fares wrote on Instagram to her 2.8 million followers in July. Two months later she was murdered in a brazen, daylight attack.
The model known for her risque posts was shot several times by a man who leaned in to the window of her white Porsche as she drove through Baghdad last week.
Her death is the latest in a string of attacks on popular women and activists who dare to speak up for change in Muslim-majority Iraq.
It follows the death of a woman known as "Iraq's Barbie", plastic surgeon Dr Rafeef al-Yassiri, who many believe was poisoned over her work offering cosmetic surgery victims of war.
Soad al-Ali, another prominent female activist, was gunned down in the southern Iraqi city of Basra in what police described as a "purely personal" attack.
The Baghdad Post reports a former Miss Iraq, Simaa Qasim is so concerned she's "next" on the hit list that she's leaving social media. Ms Qasim, who was "close" with Ms Fares, said she had received death threats.
In a tearful video to her followers on YouTube, Ms Qasim said she had received text messages telling her "you're next" following her friend's death.
She said women like Ms Fares were being slaughtered "like chickens", the BBC reported.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said it wasn't clear whether the same people were behind the attacks, or what their motives might have been, but admitted there was "a plan behind these crimes".
Ms Fares, 22, had been living in the booming city of Irbil, a Kurdish region that is self-ruled and much safer than the capital.
The former Miss Baghdad often travelled back to the city and a week ago it cost her her life.
She was shot three times in Baghdad's Kam Sara neighbourhood about 5.45pm on Thursday. She died at Baghdad's Rusafa Health Centre.
The shooting was captured by CCTV cameras. The footage showed two men escaping on a motorbike after the Ms Fares was attacked.
A video posted to social media showed Ms Fares' body being carried away with a white sheet over her face. The sheet was covered in blood.
At her funeral, Ms Fares' body was accompanied by a black and white photograph of her and a plastic red rose.
Her fans took to social media to hail her strength and willingness to speak out in a country that can still have conservative attitudes towards women.
One fan wrote: "Tara's death screams discrimination, lack of freedom and right. Sympathy is not enough."
Hanaa Edwar, the founder of the human rights group Iraqi al-Amal, told AFP the murders were designed to send a message "to activists in particular, but also to the whole of society".
"Attacking women who are public figures is a bid to force them to shut themselves away at home," Ms Edwar said.
Amnesty International's senior crisis responder in the Middle East Donatella Rovera wrote on Twitter that Ms Fares' "fears were justified" when she wrote that she was "afraid of the one who kills and chops off heads to prove the existence of God".
"She was shot dead in broad daylight," Ms Rovera wrote.
I have always been proud of where I’ve come 🙏🏼 for me and others around me i feel thankful for everything is happened to me— Tara Fares 👑 (@tarafaresss) May 29, 2018
Im never feel shame cuz i live in a city inhabited by war and destruction so far I live every moment in my life as I love it , No one can know the truth pic.twitter.com/tRwJBNpJpA