It was smoky, alcohol-free and there was not a bikini in sight, but organisers have hailed the first Miss Iraq beauty pageant in four decades as a victory against the tyranny of war.
“What we’re hoping to accomplish is to make Iraq’s voice heard, show that it is still alive, that its heart is still beating,” said Senan Kamel, the 2015 pageant’s artistic director.
“Some people out there think we don’t love life,” said Humam al-Obeidi, one of the pageant organisers, as the crowd spilled out of the Baghdad hotel ballroom where the pageant was held.
Shaymaa Abdelrahman, a 20-year-old from the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, was crowned the winner, becoming the first person to hold the title of Miss Iraq since the event was last held in 1972.
The jury’s decision was popular with the audience, especially in the back rows, where young men with beards and tight blazers had been standing on their chairs shouting her name. Read more