Miss Iraq Pageant Winner Crowned For First Time In More Than 40 Years

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December 22, 2015

BAGHDAD, IRAQ – For the first time in more than 40 years, Iraq has crowned a Miss Iraq beauty pageant winner.

Newly crowned Miss Iraq Shaima Qassim, 20, left, as she celebrates after being crowned the end of the 2015 Miss Iraq Final, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

December 22, 2015

BAGHDAD, IRAQ – For the first time in more than 40 years, Iraq has crowned a Miss Iraq beauty pageant winner.

Newly crowned Miss Iraq Shaima Qassim, 20, left, as she celebrates after being crowned the end of the 2015 Miss Iraq Final, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Shaima Qassim, a 20-year-old economics student from Kirkuk, clinched the shimmering gold-and-crystal crown Saturday after outshining more than 150 candidates — and overcoming death threats that reportedly caused many others to drop out.

Since the pageant’s last winner in 1972, the event had been canceled amid unrest in the Middle East. Over the years, other pageants had been held under different names, but none of these contests were in accordance with international standards, NBC reported.

This year's Miss Iraq event was constructed in a way that would allow its winner to potentially go on to compete internationally, with pageants like Miss World having removed the swimsuit segment of its competition in late 2014.

Even after the Miss Iraq pageant cut swimsuits from the contestants' generally conservative attire, religious extremists threatened violence, forcing the pageant to be pushed back two months in October, The Independent reported.

Fifteen aspiring beauty queens dropped out over threats, Iraqi fashion designer Senan Kamel, a pageant spokesman and judge, told NBC in October.

In the end, Saturday night saw eight brave and beautiful finalists strutting across a Baghdad hotel’s stage in high heels and sleeveless — but below-the-knee — evening gowns.

"I'm very happy to see Iraq going forward," Qassim told Agence France-Presse shortly after her crowning before a room full of jovial admirers with armed guards at the door. "This event was huge and put a smile on the faces of the Iraqis."

The green-eyed stunner, speaking to NBC in October, said that like the other candidates, she has been personally affected by the ongoing violence in their area.

Two of her cousins were serving Iraq’s federal police when they were killed while fighting ISIS militants, she said.

"Our people are badly in need of such cultural activities," she said. "After all we have been through, we need to do something new that would reform our society."

Qassim said she will use her title toward educational initiatives, particularly among those displaced by conflict.


Courtesy: Huff Post