The Iranian social media celebrity known as ‘Zombie Angelina Jolie’ has appeared in a TV interview showing her real face after being released from prison.
Sahar Tabar – who was arrested last year on charges including ‘corruption’ and ‘blasphemy’ – was recently freed from prison amid public outrage at her 10-year sentence, according to activist Masih Alinejad.
Tabar is famous for posting heavily-doctored Instagram photos of her gaunt, eerie face, sparking comparisons to a corpse-like Angelina Jolie – but her appearance on Rokna confirmed that these were an illusion rather than the result of plastic surgery.
The state-run media outlet has not yet revealed what she said in the TV interview, but quoted her as saying before her release that ‘what you saw on Instagram was the computer effects I used to create the image’.
Tabar purportedly told Rokna that she had sought Instagram fame having ‘wanted to be famous since I was a child’.
‘Cyberspace was an easy way. It was much easier than becoming an actor,’ she was quoted as saying.
However, after her ordeal she apparently said that ‘I’m sure I will not even put Instagram on my phone anymore, let alone have a page’.
Rights groups say Iran has a long record of airing staged confessions on government-run TV channels.
Tabar, whose real name is Fatemeh Khishvand, had been in prison for 14 months after her October 2019 arrest.
In April, the US-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said that Tabar was on a ventilator after contracting Covid-19 in prison.
Iran was one of the early hotspots of the pandemic, and the CHRI said she had become seriously ill at the Sina Hospital in Tehran before she seemingly recovered.
Tabar’s arrest last year came after ‘numerous requests from the public’ for her to be detained, according to government-run media.
The charges against her blasphemy, inciting violence, gaining income through inappropriate means and encouraging corruption among the young.
‘I do not look like these photoshopped pictures right now,’ she told state television in the interview aired last October.
Tabar denied reports she sought to look like Jolie, saying instead that she was inspired by a zombie-like character from the animated fantasy film ‘Corpse Bride’.
Her Instagram account, which she said had 486,000 followers, has since been taken down.
The television channel said was the only child of a divorced couple who had been living with her mother, and that she ‘could have been in university by now’ if not for her ‘strange’ online persona and fame.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Iran to stop broadcasting videos of such ‘confessions’, saying they ‘violate the defendants’ rights’.
The interview with Tabar had her claiming that her mother had tried to stop her from altering her appearance but that she had continued in pursuit of Instagram likes.
‘I saw people were following what I did and, when the likes grew, I felt I was doing the right thing,’ she apparently said.