Iraqi actress Enas Taleb told AFP Thursday she is suing British magazine The Economist for using a photo of her to illustrate a controversial article on obesity among Arab women.
The article, headlined “Why Women Are Fatter Than Men in the Arab World”, was published last month with a picture of Taleb performing at Iraq’s Babylon International Festival.
“My photo was used in a context that was offensive to women,” the popular actress and TV host told AFP by telephone.
She said she had received “numerous insulting comments” that had harmed her “psychological state” and unsettled her family.
Taleb, 42, told AFP she had initiated “legal action” demanding “an apology and financial compensation” without mentioning an amount.
The Economist article argued that obesity rates are high among Arab women because social restrictions keep many out of work and at home and often prevent them from exercising in the open or in gyms.
It also blamed other factors such as poverty and diet and argued that “Rubens-esque” female figures are seen as attractive by many in the Arab world.
It added that Iraqis often cite Taleb, “an actress with ample curves,… as the ideal of beauty”.
The article sparked anger on social media and drew charges of sexism and of “fat-shaming” Arab women.
Taleb charged that the article had painted “a distorted image of women in the Arab world and of overweight women”.
She shared a video on her Instagram account, which has nine million followers, in which her British lawyer talked about “the defamation case against The Economist”.
“Today I have issued a letter of claim on behalf of my client demanding apology on her behalf for serious harm caused to her and her career by publication of her photograph,” the lawyer said.
The Economist did not immediately reply to a request for comment from AFP.
Iraqi MP and former cabinet minister Evan Gabro urged solidarity with Taleb “after the insult to her and to Iraqi and Arab women”.
“The Iraqi woman will remain majestic and beautiful in the eyes of the world,” she said.
Zahraa Ghandour, an Iraqi actress and filmmaker, also denounced “the arrogant perspective of the Western media” which she said has a tendency to “reinforce stereotypes”.