Shayma Qassim, 20, won the first beauty pageant to be held in Iraq in 40 years on Saturday. According to the report, following her win, Qassim received a threatening phone call in which she was warned that if she refused to join the ranks of the Islamic State movement she would be kidnapped.
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 in March 2016.
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.
At least two young women pulled out of the contest after receiving death threats, and the swimsuit section of the competition had to be dropped, organizers said.
A third of Iraq is now controlled by Islamic State, the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim militants who believe women must be fully covered or face harsh punishment, including death.