Shaima Qassim is not letting Isis scare her from pursing her dreams after becoming the first Miss Iraq since 1972. The terrorist group reportedly called the beauty queen following her win and warned her she would be kidnapped if she refused to join the radical militant group.
According to The Independent, the pageant's organisers said the newly crowned Iraqi beauty was distressed by the call but was determined to "continue forward despite any obstacles." The pageant was rife with controversy after over 150 women applied to participate. NBC News reported that backlash from religious hardliners forced 15 contestants to drop out of the competition.
Qassim told NBC News that beauty queen from Kirkuk, Iraq had to convince her parents to allow her to enter the pageant after initially forbidding her from participating. "In the past I heard that such contests used to be held in Baghdad—I dreamed of being a part of one of these contests." She added that she believed Iraqis were "badly in need of such a cultural activities" after years of war and bloodshed.
Before the warning phone call, Qassim experienced first hand the violence brought in by the Islamic State (IS). According to NBC News, two of her cousins, who were part of Iraq's federal police, were killed by IS (Daesh) fighters.
She later said her win was in the name of women's rights. "I want to prove that the Iraqi woman has her own existence in society, she has her rights like men," the 20-year-old economics student said. "I am afraid of nothing, because I am confident that what I am doing is not wrong." Qassim will represent Iraq in the Miss Universe contest held in Thailand in March 2016.