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Miss Iraq 2015: Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman

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Miss Iraq 2015: Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman

Post  bonner on Sun Dec 20, 2015 8:52 am

Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman, a 20-year-old economics student from the northern oil rich city of Kirkuk, was crowned MISS IRAQ 2015 at the conclusion of the coronation show at the Sheraton Grand Ishtar Hotel in Baghdad. The national pageant marked a historic occasion in Iraq by being the first to be organized since 1972 and the first ever to be nationally televised. The pageant was co-founded by a group of Iraqi civil actvisits, Inanna Group, and Al-Mada Foundation for Media Arts & Culture. Members of the jury included representatives from Iraq's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities.


According to an interview with NBC, the war with ISIS has personally affected Shaima whose home city was partly captured by ISIS in 2014 until they were driven away by the Kurdish Peshmerga. Two of her cousins, who were members of Iraq's federal police, lost their lives while fighting the Islamic State militants that same year.






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Re: Miss Iraq 2015: Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman

Post  bonner on Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:56 am

Shaimaa Qassim Abdulrahman talks about the true beauty in the return of Miss Iraq





Source – The National – 18 January 2016
In 2003, a young Iraqi girl watched her classmates die when a missile struck near her school in Kirkuk. Despite a broken arm and cuts all over her body from shattered glass, Shaimaa Qassim Abdulrahman managed to push her way out of the rubble and run to safety.


“I was so scared,” she says. But that fear didn’t stop her from going back to school in another area just a week later.
It is this determination to keep going that helped Abdulrahman achieve her dreams of fame – last month she was crowned Miss Iraq 2015
.
The 20-year-old business administration student, who has Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen roots, has become the face and, to some extent, an ambassador of Iraq. She is the embodiment of the mixed fabric that makes up her country.


December was the first time in 44 years the war-torn country has hosted a national beauty pageant and it will be sending a contestant to the Miss World pageant. More importantly, Iraq was making a statement with the event: that something “beautiful” and “normal” can come out of a country ravaged by wars, terrorism and instability.


“The vision behind this pageant is to bring back some kind of normality to our lives,” says Abdulrahman, speaking exclusively to The Nationalfrom Baghdad. “It is not just about looks, but about the beauty of the Iraqi woman – her grace, her manners, her courage, her mind and her voice to stand up for what she believes in.”


The Miss Iraq pageant certainly demanded more of contestants than similar contests elsewhere. It took great courage for the women to compete after a barrage of threats from terrorists, religious hardliners and conservative members of Iraqi society.


“There was so much pressure,” says Abdulrahman. “People called it a dishonour, and how shameful it is to compete in a beauty pageant. Family and friends worried that people will speak badly about me – but I know who I am. I am confident in myself and I don’t worry about what people say. “In the end, only eight [contestants] showed up. All heroes. All courageous women from all walks of life and all sects and cities. We were united in our love for Iraq, and our love of life.
“We want the world to see that Iraqis also enjoy life, culture, entertainment and are normal.”


There were reports this month that Abdulrahman had received a call from ISIS, threatening to kidnap and kill her unless she joined the terrorist group.
“I didn’t get a call from them,” she says. “I received threats from Daesh [ISIS] through social media. I am not afraid of them. But as a precaution, and after requests from my family, who worry about me, I left Kirkuk and moved to Baghdad. It really saddens me that Daesh is near Kirkuk and they are trying to come and destroy it.”


Memories of her childhood and recent tragic events that claimed the lives of loved ones are what drive Abdulrahman to “push on” and raise awareness of the plight of her people.


“If entering a beauty pageant got the attention of the world, then I want to direct their attention to the great need for schools,” she says. “It is not fair that Iraq, the cradle of civilisation, has children who can’t read or write because there are no schools for them to go to.
“It is my dream to help the internally displaced refugees, especially the children.”


According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, in June last year, at least 3.1 million people had been displaced by the conflict in Iraq and 8.2 million were in need of humanitarian assistance. The Kurdish-controlled north, including the city of Kirkuk, hosts more than a third of the displaced, about 1.2 million.
The eldest of three siblings – which include a brother and sister – Abdulrahman wants a better future for her family and for future generations.


“We have so much misery,” she says. “I have buried many loved ones, as has every Iraqi, but we can’t let that stop us from moving forward. We can’t keep looking to the past and to the pain. Iraq has been associated with ugliness and hopelessness for too long.


“All the West sees is a backward country. We really want to restart our lives, regain our identity as a country of prophets and poets, not a country of martyrs and terrorists. This sectarian fight is not what we are – it must end. We are Iraqis, we are one and we love life.”
Describing herself as a “peace loving Muslim”, she says her role models are the Prophet Mohammed and her parents, “who always stood and stand by me, and believe in me and my dreams”.


One of Abdulrahman’s greatest memories of the pageant came after her mother told her that she may not be able to attend because of illness. Abdulrahman ’s father, an oil engineer, has a heart problem and couldn’t make it either.


“I was devastated – I was all alone there,” she says. “Then as I went on stage, I heard someone cheer so loudly for me, and saw my mother there in the audience. My loudest supporter.”


Fighting back sobs, she adds: “I was so happy. She came for me.”
Abdulrahman, who has never been outside Iraq, is excited about the new doors her title could open for her and her country, but adds: “I will never leave Iraq. It is my home. I will be like a fish out of water if I ever leave.”


Abdulrahman will celebrate her 21st birthday today by celebrating Iraqi women.
“Iraqi women always had a powerful, positive and equal role to men,” she says. “But due to wars and conflict, our roles have diminished. That is changing, we will change it.


“Whatever happens, I don’t hold grudges and I will keep moving forward. There is a lot that needs to be done in Iraq, for Iraqis. And that is my mission.
“Whatever I do, I will do it with a big smile, as you achieve more with kindness and understanding.”
Pageant marks a step forward while paying homage to the past


Forty-three years after the last Miss Iraq contest, an internationally recognised beauty pageant was set up by “a group of young activists” who announced on the missiraq.net website that they wanted to “highlight the bright side in Iraq” through cultural and artistic projects.
Wijdan Burhan Al-Deen was the last internationally recognised Miss Iraq, in 1972. You can see her in old footage, online, competing in the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico.


The 2015 Iraqi national beauty contest was registered under the ministry of culture and organised by Inanna Group and Ahmed Salman Laith, the pageant director. It’s artistic director was Senan Kamel, who last March also organised Iraq’s first fashion show in many years.


In the week running up to Miss Iraq, the eight finalists embarked on a string of pre-­pageant activities, including a visit to a camp for displaced people in Baghdad and a tree-planting ceremony near the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon.


One of the highlights of the event was the crown. Described as “Babylon meets Byzantine meets Bohemia”, it features 456 multi­coloured opaque and crystal gemstones from Swarovski, set in a gold-plated headpiece to “evoke a sense of royalty”.


The event’s Facebook page says it was chosen to emphasise “the fact that our land of Mesopotamia, cradle of civilisation, played an instrumental role in giving rise to other major empires and dynasties around the world. The basic design of the crown is based on that of Miss World, which is believed to be inspired by the crown of Princess Anne of Bohemia, and that of Byzantine Empress Zoe, as depicted in the Hagia Sophia”.


The crown’s octagonal star, for example, symbolises Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of ferti­lity, love, war and sexuality, and also reflects Iraq’s Assyrian heritage.


The colours of the gems (red, white opal, fern green, black diamond) are derived from the Iraqi flag, which are in turn based on the pan-Arab colours.
The yellow-gold plating is described as “the colour of the sunbeams, which is representative of the Kurdish and Yazidi minorities. A dark red velvet band has been inserted inside the circlet for fitting purposes and symbolises the blood sacrificed for the unity of the country”.

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