The first Miss Iraq since 1972 has been crowned. Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman overcame threats of violence in what she said was a stand for women's rights.
"I want to prove that the Iraqi woman has her own existence in society, she has her rights like men," she told NBC News. "I am afraid of nothing, because I am confident that what I am doing is not wrong."
The pool of nearly 200 participants was whittled down to 10 after death threats were posted to the pageant's website and Facebook page, according to CNN.
Organizers delayed the televised event by two months because of the threats and removed the swimsuit portion, keeping with the standards of the conservative Muslim country, replacing it with a more covered outfit. They maintained it was important to put on the event in the face of the violence happening in their country.
"There are many indications that Iraq is finished, but such contests give hope that life in Iraq goes on," Senan Kamel, the pageant's spokesman, told Reuters.
Abdulrahman's family has been affected personally by the violence: Two of her cousins were killed fighting ISIS, according to NBC. The 20-year-old economics student plans to use her platform to work on educational initiatives for those displaced by conflict.
While beauty pageants have been criticized in the U.S. for placing too much emphasis on women's looks, the newly crowed Abdulrahman told NBC she felt the event wasn't just about judging beauty, but a chance to "to reflect the culture of Iraq."
"Iraq needed this," Ahmed Leith, the pageant director, told CNN. "The situation is weak here, and we wanted to celebrate this the same way other countries like Lebanon and others do. To have a sense of normalcy."
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