Iraqi Actress Calls Out Use of Her Photo in Story About ‘Fat’ Arab Women

Enas Taleb said the use of her photo in an Economist article was a “huge insult” to Arab women.
enas taleb the economist photo
Enas Taleb pictured at an Iraqi cultural event in 2021. Photo: Karar Essa/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

One of Iraq’s best-known actresses has criticised a British newspaper for using her photo in an article about obesity among Arab women.

Enas Taleb said she is launching legal action over the Economist article, which was published online at the end of July. The article discusses an obesity gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa, with a main image featuring Taleb pictured last year at Iraq’s annual cultural Babylon Festival.


Taleb, 42, is well known in Iraq, having appeared on television since she was 16 years old. Also a talk show host, she has 9 million followers on Instagram

The last paragraph of the Economist article directly mentions the Iraqi star: “A final cause of obesity, according to some women, is that many Arab men prefer them to be Rubens-esque. Shutting women up at home helps keep them that way. Shireen Rashid, another Iraqi housewife, wants to shed a few pounds. But not too many. ‘When you are skinny, you lose your femininity,’ she says. Her husband does not want her to lose weight at all. He fears she will ‘feel like a piece of wood in bed’. Iraqis often cite Enas Taleb, an actress with ample curves (pictured), as the ideal of beauty.”

In an interview with New Lines online magazine, which focuses on stories out of the Middle East, Taleb revealed she is preparing to sue the news outlet. “I have decided to take legal action against The Economist for their cover story. I am demanding compensation for the emotional, mental and social damage this incident has caused me. My legal team and I are arranging the next steps,” she said.

On Twitter, users also took issue with the headline, including Kim Ghattas of the Atlantic who called it “sexist misogynistic orientalist.”

Taleb appeared on Monday on Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV, where she said that the image was old and used completely out of context in the article, adding that she thought the piece was “a huge insult” to Arab women and Iraqi women specifically. 

Taleb also told New Lines that “audiences have loved me for many years. It was disappointing to see an international outlet label me as if all my accomplishments mean nothing. I am healthy and happy with the way I look, and to me that is all that matters.”

VICE World News has contacted the Economist and Taleb for further comment