A 20-year-old girl from northern Iraq has won the first official Miss Iraq Pageant held since 1972.
20-year-old economics student Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman shook off threats of death and criticism from hard-liners to be crowned Miss Iraq 2015.
The first national pageant in four decades had to be moved from Basra to Baghdad after threats from conservative Muslims.
Eight contenders competed for the crown and a chance to represent Iraq in the Miss Universe contest. Organizers tried to stick to criteria of the international event, but made concessions to cultural sensitivities.
For instance, no swimsuit walk was allowed and the evening dresses worn by the contestants were all below the knee. However, the girls were also prohibited from wearing headscarves.
There was more talking than glamorous strutting during the pageant as the contestants pitched their charity projects. One suggested repairing the Mosul dam, the largest in the country and reportedly badly damaged during the fighting around the city. The winner, Shaymaa Abdelrahman, said she would push for educational programs.
“I’m very happy to see Iraq going forward,” she told AFP after being crowned. “This event was huge and put a smile on the faces of the Iraqis.”
Iraq only held one pageant as part of Miss Universe – in 1972, when the country was ruled by the predecessor and cousin of Saddam Hussein, President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. Now Iraq is impoverished, torn by sectarian violence and at war with the brutal jihadist group, Islamic State, which has occupied Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.
Premier concours de beauté Miss Iraq en 40 ans. Une jeune Kurde Shayma Qassim de Kirkuk est la Miss Iraq 2015 pic.twitter.com/ModFdJaOAF
— Marysieńka ن (@MarieMarysienka) December 19, 2015
Security concerns prompted the relocation of the pageant’s final from Basra to Baghdad. Two contestants dropped out of the competition after receiving death threats. The organizers say they were accused of “supporting Zionism” by the country’s Sunni community.
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