Beauty queens have been suffering in the news lately. First, Miss Colombia was crowned and then de-crowned when Steve Harvey mistakenly named her as the winner at the Miss Universe pageant.
Then Miss Puerto Rico was forced to step down after posting tweets supportive of Donald Trump and criticizing Muslims.
But that’s nothing compared to what Miss Iraq is having to endure.
Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman, a 20-year-old economics student is the first woman to be crowned Miss Iraq since 1972, winning the contest on Saturday.
But on Tuesday, she received a phone call telling her to join the ranks of ISIS or she will be kidnapped, according to a report by the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan.
NBC News says “More than 150 women applied for Miss Iraq pageant, which organizers said was a chance to “create life in Iraq” and “revive our country” after years of bloodshed and internal chaos.
But a backlash saw 15 contestants drop out of the competition, according to one of the judges, Iraqi fashion designer Sinan Kamel. Reuters reported that least two of these women had received death threats.”
The Jerusalem Post reports, “The beauty queen from the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq was distressed by the phone call, but has said that she will not let the threat stop her. She expressed her determination to “continue forward despite any obstacles,” according to a report published by the organizers of the Miss Iraq competition.
Qassim is set to represent Iraq in the Miss Universe contest to be held in Thailand next year.
The competition finale was held in a Baghdad hotel and featured eight contestants in evening dresses. It was the only part of the competition opened to media.
Organizers had tried to tone down or adapt aspects of the contest out of respect for the taboos and sensibilities of a conservative Muslim country which frowns on the public display of women’s bodies. For example, swimsuits have been replaced with a more conservative outfit, though a ban on Islamic headscarves remains, in keeping with the protocol of Western pageants.
The pageant’s televised finale, originally set for October 1, had been moved back to December after threats by tribal leaders opposed to young women from their families taking part.”
Here in the West, beauty pageants are often derided as shallow and objectifying women. But you cannot deny the courage of these young women in Iraq who bravely defy death threats simply to celebrate their youth and beauty.
[Note: This article was written by Michele Hickford]