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We propose the inverse Gaussian distribution, as a less complex alternative to the classical log-normal model, to describe turbulence-induced fading in free-space optical (FSO) systems operating in weak turbulence conditions and/or in the presence of aperture averaging effects. By conducting goodness of fit tests, we define the range of values of the scintillation index for various multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) FSO configurations, where the two distributions approximate each other with a certain significance level. Furthermore, the bit error rate performance of two typical MIMO FSO systems is investigated over the new turbulence model; an intensity-modulation/direct detection MIMO FSO system with Q-ary pulse position modulation that employs repetition coding at the transmitter and equal gain combining at the receiver, and a heterodyne MIMO FSO system with differential phase-shift keying and maximal ratio combining at the receiver. Finally, numerical results are presented that validate the theoretical analysis and provide useful insights into the implications of the model parameters on the overall system performance.