Iraq launches sweeping crackdown over social media, arresting Syrian singer and other influencers

Iraq launches sweeping crackdown over social media, arresting Syrian singer and other influencers
In a sweeping crackdown on social media content, Iraqi authorities have arrested Syrian singer Angi Farah for allegedly producing "inappropriate content."
2 min read
03 June, 2024
Iraqi authorities have arrested Syrian singer Angi Farah for allegedly producing "inappropriate content". [Photo from Angi Farah's Facebook account]

Syrian singer Angi Farah was arrested in Baghdad on Sunday on charges of producing inappropriate content, according to local Iraqi media. 

Security forces detained Farah under Article 403 of the Iraqi Penal Code for her online activities, Al-Sumaria News reported, citing a source from Iraq's interior ministry.

The arrest is part of a broader campaign by Iraqi security authorities against what they describe as "producers of inappropriate content" on social media platforms. The source added that the ministry has been issuing arrest warrants and judicial rulings to curb such activities.

Several international watchdogs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, last year asked the Iraqi government to seize its cracking down on free speech, mainly under Article 403 of the Iraqi Penal Code which criminalises published material that "violates public integrity or decency". 

In a separate incident, Iraqi social media influencer Om Fahad was shot dead by a gunman on a motorbike outside her Baghdad home in April. The interior ministry is investigating the murder. Om Fahad, whose real name was Ghufran Sawadi, was assassinated while in her car, parked outside her house in Baghdad's Zayouna neighbourhood.

In March, the Iraqi Ministry of Communications formally requested the government to take action against the TikTok social media platform. Expressing concerns about TikTok's impact on Iraqi society, Iraq's Minister of Communications, Hayam al-Yasiri, emphasised that the platform has contributed to "the erosion of the country's social unity." She stated that the Ministry of Communications has formally requested the Council of Ministers to block TikTok, citing its lack of educational value and its role primarily as an entertainment platform. 

This follows a recent decision by the Supreme Federal Court of Iraq to regulate offensive online content. TikTok, known for hosting content creators who have faced legal repercussions, falls within the scope of the court's directive, aligning with Iraqi authorities' efforts to address derogatory content on social media platforms.

MENA
Live Story

On 25 September 2023, Iraqi blogger Noor Alsaffar, also known as Noor BM, was tragically shot and killed by an unidentified assailant in Baghdad's al-Mansur district. With a sizable following of over 370,000 on Instagram and TikTok, Noor challenged societal norms by sharing videos of himself dressed in women's attire, accompanied by dance performances.

In February 2023, two Iraqis were sentenced to prison for sharing "indecent" social media content following the formation of a committee by the interior ministry to monitor online content against Iraqi societal values. YouTuber Hassan Sajamah received a two-year prison term, while TikTok user Om Fahad faced similar charges before her untimely death.