'Zombie Angelina Jolie' goes into hiding after 10-year sentence over spooky Insta selfies
A social media sensation who enraged authorities in her home country in 2019 after posting eerie selfies to look like a "zombie" version of Angelina Jolie appears to have gone into hiding.
Fatemeh Khishvand, popularly known as Sahar Tabar, posted photoshopped versions of herself that led to comparisons with the 'Tomb Raider' actress. The social media star was later detained by the Iranian government for over a year before being handed a 10-year prison sentence in December 2020 over her heavily-edited photos. She was charged at age 19 with the corruption of young people and disrespect for the Islamic republic on the orders of Tehran's guidance court that apparently handles "cultural crimes and social and moral corruption."
Fatemeh's disproportionately lengthy sentence came down from an Islamic Revolutionary Court, notorious for its alleged secretive rulings. The sentence sparked outrage on social media, where many called out the "unjust" severity of the case. The internet figure was even denied bail despite other inmates being freed over similar concerns. She was eventually released just days after being sentenced, but nothing has been reported of her since. Many are wondering whether Fatemeh is maintaining a low profile in order to placate Iran's Shia Muslim authorities. "I'm sure I will not even put Instagram on my phone anymore, let alone have a page," she allegedly said after languishing in jail for 14 months, the Mirror reported.
The state of Iran is known to "heavily suppress 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 postings deemed 'counter-revolutionary' or 'un-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 shot to prominence in 2017 when she started posting creepy photos and videos of her photoshopped face and disfigured cheeks on Instagram, garnering more than 500,000 followers at the time. Some were initially fooled by her appearance but soon questions were raised about the authenticity of her photos. She revealed to her fans in July 2019 that she simply used a mix of Photoshop and makeup to achieve her freaky looks. Fatemeh admitted she had always wanted to be famous, but said she was aiming more for a look of the Corpse Bride in Tim Burton's animated film of the same name rather than the 'Maleficent' star. Responding to her critics, she said, “People are probably living in the 18th century and they haven’t seen or heard of technology or make-up and they are really surprised.”
Fatemeh was arrested in October 2019 and caught Covid the following April while still in jail. 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 its "inhumane medical and psychological conditions."
The social media star was paraded on state-run Iranian TV after she was released in December 2020, which is the last reported public sighting of her. Iranian activist Masih Alinejad helped raise awareness about the case, even urging Jolie to step in and help. “Today Iranian teenager who posted heavily distorted images of herself online and was jailed for 10 years has been freed after massive media pressure," Alinejad tweeted at the time. Her Instagram account seems to have been taken down.
Today Iranian teenager who posted heavily distorted images of herself online and was jailed for 10 years has been freed after massive media pressure.#سحر_تبر با قید وثیقه شد #حکومت_گروگانگیر آزادی را جیره بندی میکند pic.twitter.com/Dmup86thCC— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 17, 2020