Iraq is sending a contestant to the Miss Universe pageant for the first time since 1972, after holding its first national beauty pageant in more than 40 years.
Shaymaa Abdelrahman, 20, won Miss Iraq 2015, which took place in Baghdad Saturday.
“There has not been such an important cultural activity in Baghdad since 1972,” Humam Ablobaidi, the sales and marketing director for the pageant, said per Reuters. “We try to send a clear signal to terrorism that Baghdad is a capital of culture and beauty, which can never be wiped out.”
“We do not only pay attention to a beautiful appearance,” Ablobaidi said. “These girls participated in many activities over the last week. They went to refugee camps and orphanages to experience the misery of the Iraqi people. We are sending a strong signal to society and the world to show what Iraqis have sacrificed for a peaceful life, and what we can do to help all the people.”
The event was not open to the public, and most of the audience was made up of the contestants’ relatives.
Several women withdrew from the pageant out of fear they’d face backlash for participating.
Story by Allan Smith and editing by Chelsea Pineda
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