A social media sensation who angered authorities in her home country in 2019 after posting awkward selfies to look like a “zombie” version of Angelina Jolie appears to have gone into hiding.
Fatemeh Khishvand, popularly known as Sahar Tabar, posted photoshop versions of herself that led to comparisons to the ‘Tomb Raider’ actress. The social media star was later detained by the Iranian government for over a year before being sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2020 for her heavily edited photos. She was charged at age 19 with youth corruption and disrespect for the Islamic republic by order of the Tehran court, which apparently deals with “cultural crimes and social and moral corruption”.
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Fatemeh’s disproportionately long sentence came from an Islamic Revolutionary Court, famous for its alleged secret rulings. The sentence provoked outrage on social media, where many denounced the “unfair” gravity of the case. The internet figure was even denied bail, despite other inmates being released on similar concerns. She was eventually released a few days after being sentenced, but nothing has been reported about her since. Many are wondering if Fatemeh is keeping a low profile to placate Iran’s Shiite Muslim authorities. “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to put Instagram on my phone anymore, let alone have a page,” she said after languishing in prison for 14 months, the Mirror reported.
The state of Iran is known for “strongly suppressing the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” according to Amnesty International, which reported how “security and intelligence officials carried out arbitrary arrests for social media posts deemed ‘contra- revolutionary’. or ‘non-Islamic’ in January 2021.” Several major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in the country, while Instagram and TikTok are still accessible.
Fatemeh rose to prominence in 2017 when he began posting creepy photos and videos of his photoshoped face and disfigured cheeks on Instagram, garnering over 500,000 followers at the time. Some were initially fooled by his appearance, but doubts soon arose about the authenticity of photos of him. She revealed to her fans in July 2019 that she simply used a mix of Photoshop and makeup to achieve her weird look. Fatemeh admitted that she always wanted to be famous, but said she wanted a Corpse Bride look more in the Tim Burton animated film of the same name than the ‘Maleficent’ star. Responding to her critics, she said: “People are probably living in the 18th century and haven’t seen or heard of technology or makeup and are really surprised.”
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Fatemeh was arrested in October 2019 and caught Covid the following April while still in prison. At the time, there were reports that she was fighting for her life on a ventilator. She was reportedly placed in a women’s prison described by the Human Rights Monitor as “the most dangerous and worst prison for women” in Iran due to her “inhumane medical and psychological conditions”.
The social media star paraded on Iranian state TV after she was released in December 2020, which is her last public appearance. Iranian activist Masih Alinejad helped raise awareness of the case, even urging Jolie to step in and help. “Today, the Iranian teenager who posted distorted images of herself online and was jailed for 10 years has been released after massive pressure from the media,” Alinejad tweeted at the time. Her Instagram account appears to have been removed.