Tara Fares was shot dead in broad daylight last week by an unknown gunman while driving her luxury Porsche convertible in the Baghdad neighborhood of Camp Sarah.
CCTV footage showed the car being driven along a narrow alleyway as a man ran towards it, moments before she was killed.
The former Miss Baghdad had more than 2.6 million followers and was known for her outspoken comments on freedom, life, and religion.
A statement released on Sunday (October 7) by the Interior Ministry, which is investigating Fares’ death, said that she was killed by a known “criminal extremist group”. The ministry did not say whether the gunmen have been detained.
Fares’ death came two days after civil rights activist Suad al-Ali was shot dead by a gunman in brazen daylight in her native southern city of Basra. Her driver was also shot in the back.
A month earlier, Rafeef al-Yassiri, a famous plastic surgeon and of owner a specialised beauty spa ‘The Barbie Clinic’ was found dead in her home. A week later Rasha al-Hassan, the manager and owner of a beauty centre, was also found dead in her home.
The three women were known for their humanitarian efforts and their support for human right cases. The circumstances of the women’s deaths remain unknown.
Although it is not clear if any of the deaths are connected, women’s rights activist Hama Edward said all four women were targeted to prevent them from being part of Iraqi public life.
“The move was meant to stop the transition from extremism and social isolation to an open horizon where women can efficiently participate in social life through humanitarian, communal and human rights activities,” Edward told Reuters.
Local media reports also described women as being “targeted” and described the four deaths as “killings”.
Haider Issam Nahdi Younis, who manages social media accounts for Iraqi celebrities, said some artists and models have closed their social media accounts after receiving death threats following the deaths of the four Iraqi women.
Edward called on the Iraqi Interior Ministry to reveal the findings of the investigation into Fares’ death to ease public fears and prevent more women from retreating from public life out of fear of being targeted.
A recent decrease of the influence of conservative Islamists who came to power after 2003 encouraged a number of young women to enter the modeling industry despite the challenges, including restrictions on what clothes to display and routine online abuse.