Iraq's first national beauty pageant in four decades.



Iraq Hosts First Beauty Pageant Since 1972

While we were all obsessively lamenting Steve Harvey’s unfortunate gaffe during Sunday night’s Miss Universe competition, something a little more important was going on.

Last Saturday, Iraq hosted its first national beauty pageant since 1972, in spite of violent threats aimed at contestants and the pageant’s organizers. Even though the organizers had agreed to get rid of the swimsuit competition and have contestants wear modest, below-the-knee dresses, the threats were serious enough to make fifteen contestants drop out of the race completely.

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Iraq’s beauty pageant contestants.

The winner out of the eight remaining contestants was a 20-year old economics student by the name of Shaima Qassim Abdulrahman. In an interview with NBC last October, Abdulrahman talked about why she decided to compete, even after receiving threats and being strongly advised not to. She wants to help revitalize the country’s image, she said, and to let people know that “it is true that we live in a conservative Muslim country, but not a backward one.” And now that she has won, Abdulrahman says that she will work with charities that focus on education opportunities for refugees.

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Shaima Qassim Abdulrahman.

The pageant’s artistic director, Senan Kamel, spoke to the Guardian recently about the importance of Saturday’s production. “What we’re hoping to accomplish is to make Iraq’s voice heard, show that it is still alive, that its heart is still beating,” he said. Abdulrahman echoed these sentiments last October, saying that the people of Iraq are “badly in need” of cultural activities like this one. “After all we’ve been through,” she said, “we need to do something new that would reform our society.”

Images via Mic and Miss Iraq

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