Iran parades jailed Instagram star on TV

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Screenshot of Iranian TV broadcast showing Sahar Tabar before and after plastic surgeryImage source, IRTV2
Image caption,
The star's arrest and subsequent TV 'confession' has been denounced on social media

Iranian TV has broadcast an interview with an Instagram star who was reportedly jailed for blasphemy in October.

Sahar Tabar gained worldwide fame on social media for her eerie likeness to American actress Angelina Jolie - a look she is rumoured to have achieved by having as many as 50 plastic surgeries.

She was arrested on 5 October on a raft of charges including blasphemy, instigating violence, insulting the Islamic hijab dress code and encouraging corruption among young people. The hardline Tasnim news agency reported at the time that her arrest was based on "numerous messages from the public calling for the case to be pursued".

Almost a month later, Iranian Channel Two (IRTV2) has shown an interview with the star, in which she was introduced as a "zombie" and an example of how "the madness to become famous on social media has ruined a real life".

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Showing her face blurred, the channel drew attention to the fact that she is the only child of a divorced couple.

"I do not currently look like my photoshopped pictures," admitted Tabar, who went on to deny western media assumptions that her aim was to look like Angelina Jolie. It was in fact, she pointed out, to resemble the main character in the British-American animated dark fantasy Corpse Bride.

"My childhood dream was to become famous," she clarified. The 22-year-old had her wish come true last year when she published a series of images on Instagram showing her heavily altered look - additionally enhanced by makeup and photo editing.

IRTV2 alluded to her having regrets for drastically changing her appearance. "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.

'Dirty TV confessions'

The interview has been widely seen as a confession by native social media users, with many expressing anger about the broadcast. "What does Sahar Tabar have to confess to? Are there any principled people in parliament to put an end to the broadcasting of dirty and immoral confessions in television?" one person asked.

Others issued calls for such TV confessions to end and appealed for sympathy for Tabar. "Showing her on TV is shameful and dirty. She is a sick girl. Pushing her to confess is disgraceful."

Image source, Barry King/Getty Images
Image caption,
Sahar Tabar says she wanted to resemble the main character in Corpse Bride

"They put Sahar Tabar on television because of her makeup and tattoos, because she is a child of divorce and is making money from her Instagram page. Now you can repeat that we have freedom in Iran," one tweet said.

There had been an equally furious reaction on Twitter at the time of Tabar's arrest. One sarcastic remark suggested that "had she known she'd commit such a major crime by making videos, she would have opted for less dangerous and more useful things like embezzlement, theft and murder".

Reporting by Armen Shahbazian

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