Iranian woman, 22, jailed after sharing 'zombie' selfies on Instagram

Nadine Carroll
·3-min read

An Iranian woman who shared heavily distorted images of herself on social media has been jailed for 10 years.

Sahar Tabar, 22, whose real name is Fatemeh Khishvand, gained a following on Instagram last year for posting photos of herself appearing gaunt and heavily made up, with many people comparing her to a zombie version of Angelina Jolie or the animated character, Corpse Bride.

In 2019 Tabar was arrested for blasphemy, inciting violence, gaining income through inappropriate means and encouraging youths to corruption for her now deactivated Instagram account which once had over 480,000 followers.

Sahar Tabar on instagram
Sahar Tabar gained an Instagram following for looking like a zombie version of Angelina Jolie. Sahar Tabar. Source: Instagram

AFP reports Tabar was arrested on the orders of Tehran's Islamic guidance court after "numerous requests from the public".

At the time of her arrest Tabar denied reports she had plastic surgery to look like a Hollywood actress and instead referred to her social media account as “art”, insisting her followers knew she edited her images.

“This is photoshop and makeup. Every time I publish a photo, I paint my face in an increasingly funny way.

“It is a way of expressing yourself, a kind of art. My fans know that this is not my real face,” she told media.

Sahar Tabar on Iranian state TV
Iranian state TV broadcast Sahar Tabar's confession in October 2019 and claims she said "vulgarity on social media gets a lot of clicks”. Sahar Tabar. Source: AFP

In April lawyers for Tabar argued for her release from prison after she contracted coronavirus and was placed on a ventilator. Iran released about 85,000 prisoners in March in an effort to slow the spread of the virus however Tabar was refused bail and remains incarcerated, The Sun reports.

Iranian state TV broadcast her confession in late October last year and claims she admitted she was addicted to becoming famous stating "vulgarity on social media gets a lot of clicks”.

AFP reports Tabar said she regretted her social media account and said her mother had begged for her to stop posting images.

"I saw people were following what I did and, when the likes grew, I felt I was doing the right thing," Tabar said.

“My mother was telling me to stop, but I didn't listen... sometimes the words of a stranger or a friend can be more important than those of a parent.”

The Guardian reports Tabar suffers from mental illness and had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals in the past.

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad Tweeted for Angelina Jolie’s help to release Tabar from jail, writing her mother “cries every day to get her innocent daughter freed” and in a seperate video said “the Islamic Republic has a history of tormenting women”.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Iran to stop broadcasting videos of "confessions" by suspects, saying they "violate the defendants' rights".