An Iranian woman who made herself look like a "zombie" Angelina Jolie and posted creepy pictures online as a "joke" has been jailed for 10 years. Fatemeh Khishvand, became an Instagram star as she fooled people into thinking she had surgically altered her face to make it look eerily gaunt, but her antics angered the regime in Tehran.
The 19-year-old, who went by the name Sahar Tabar and amassed almost 500,000 followers, was detained in October 2019 amid a crackdown on social media celebrities. She was charged with corruption of young people and disrespect for the Islamic Republic, and in April she begged to be freed, saying she had contracted coronavirus while being held in a notoriously grim prison.
However, she was refused bail even though other prisoners have been released following similar concerns. Her lawyer confirmed she has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, a term that was called "unjust" as it sparked outrage on online. Fatemeh used make-up and Photoshop to achieve the look.
She had earlier called on Oscar-winning Jolie, 45, to campaign for her release, pleading: “The Islamic Republic has a history of tormenting women. We need to be united against this gender apartheid.”
Iranian Journalist Masih Alinejad, who spoke to Fatemah's lawyer after the sentencing, tweeted: "10 years jail for Iranian Instagramer who used make up & Photoshop to become a zombie Angelina Jolie. Sahar Tabar is only 19. Her joke landed her in jail. Her mother cries every day to get her innocent daughter freed. Dear Angelina Jolie! we need your voice here. Help us."
The initial charges included blasphemy, inciting violence, gaining income through inappropriate means and encouraging youths to corruption. Activists had earlier said she faced years in prison "for engaging in peaceful freedom of expression on her personal Instagram account".
Fatemah became an Instagram star in 2017 when she posted the photos. She claimed she had undergone 50 surgeries to look like Jolie. Instagram users dubbed her a "zombie" due to her hollow cheeks, upturned nose and gaunt appearance. She later admitted she had achieved the look through the use of make-up and digital editing, and then shared photos of her actual appearance. But she was detained and Iranian state TV showed her "confession" in October 2019.
Critics have accused Iran of using means such as torture to force prominent prisoners into confessing to crimes they are accused of. That state TV report claimed Fatemah was “a victim with an abnormal personality and mental state” who sought “vulgarity” on Instagram. Medical records alleged she was mentally ill and had visited psychiatric hospitals.
Tehran's guidance court, which handles alleged cultural crimes and social and moral corruption, had ordered the authorities to detain her.
The Iran Human Rights Monitor has described Shahre-rey, the prison where Ms Khishvand was detained, as "the most dangerous and worst prison for women" in the country "due to its inhumane medical and psychological conditions".
It said the prison, also known as Qarchak, is located on a former industrial chicken farm in a desert east of Tehran, and falls far below the UN's rules for the treatment of prisoners.