The Miss Iraq 2015 beauty pageant was held in Baghdad on Saturday 19 December, the first national beauty contest to be held in the country since 1972 when it was ruled by the predecessor and cousin of Saddam Hussein, President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. The winner was Shaima Qassim, an economics student from Kirkuk.
Eight finalists competed for the crown after at least two dropped out of the competition after receiving death threats. Organisers tried to stick to criteria of other international events, but made concessions to cultural sensitivities. For instance, no swimsuit walk was allowed and the evening dresses worn by the contestants were all below the knee. However, they were also prohibited from wearing headscarves.
"We do not only pay attention to a beautiful appearance. 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," said Humam Ablobaidi, Sales and Marketing Director of the beauty pageant.
"There has not been such an important cultural activity in Baghdad since 1972. We try to send a clear signal to terrorism that Baghdad is a capital of culture and beauty, which can never be wiped out," added Ablobaidi.
Security concerns after death threats from Muslim conservatives prompted the relocation of the pageant's final from Basra to Baghdad. Organisers said they had been accused of "supporting Zionism" by the country's Sunni community.