The digitally distorted 'zombie-like' photos of Sahar Tabar
The digitally distorted 'zombie-like' photos of Sahar Tabar

In what comes as the latest chapter on internet exploits, a 19-year-old Iranian Instagram icon was arrested and now sentenced to 10 years in jail over posting heavily distorted images of herself on social media. The young woman, known by the alias 'Sahar Tabar' online, had been posting images of herself with a 'gaunt, zombie-like' face, according to reports.

Tabar, whose real name is Fatemah Khishvand, has been accused by the authorities of disrespect for the Islamic Republic. The charges levied against her include "corruption of young people", "gaining wealth from inappropriate means", "inciting violence", and of course, "blasphemy".

Tabar was arrested over her social media activities last year, and in spring she had pleaded for release from detention, reasoning that she had contracted COVID-19, reported The Guardian.

According to the report, she had also once appealed to Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, who she resembled in a few of her photos, to campaign for her release.

"The Islamic Republic has a history of tormenting women. We need to be united against this gender apartheid,” The Guardian quoted her as saying.

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad had also appealed to Angelina Jolie to campaign for Tabar's release, highlighting that "her joke landed her in jail."

Several netizens had also compared her heavily made-up look with a 'zombie-version of Angelina Jolie' crossed with the animated character 'Corpse Bride'.

Over time, Tabar had been fighting the legal battle to rid herself of the charges levied against her, managing to clear two of the aforementioned four.

However, now that she has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, Tabar has been hoping for a complete pardon, her lawyer told the publication.

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

Sahar Tabar (centre) and her digitally distorted 'zombie-like' photos on Instagram
Sahar Tabar (centre) and her digitally distorted 'zombie-like' photos on Instagram
Photo: IRIB TV / AFP

On her part though, Tabar had repeatedly insisted that she wasn't actually "distorting" her face but was practising what she termed as 'art'.

"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,” media reports quote Tabar as saying.

However, there were hints that Tabar might have regretted her social media account and said that her mother had begged her to stop posting the kind of images she did on social media.

When Iranian state TV broadcast her confession in late October last year, a report described Tabar as “a victim with an abnormal personality and mental state”. According to her own confession, she sought "vulgarity" on social media because it used to get her "a lot of clicks". At one point, Sahar Tabar's Instagram account had as many as 4,80,000 followers.

The Guardian reported that Tabar had a history mental illness and visits to psychiatric hospitals, judging from her medical records. Therefore, her lawyer is hoping to now get her a pardon with regards to the 10-year-sentence, in light of these new developments.

It is most likely that Tabar was a victim of social media (in)fame, as her confessions point out, in that she was overwhelmed by the follower count and the likes on her account and sometime along the way, became convinced that she was doing the right thing, despite her mother repeatedly asking her to the contrary.

“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,” Tabar said in her confession.

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Free Press Journal