First Miss Iraq named in decades
Updated: 2015-12-21 07:40
Miss Iraq Shaima Qassem speaks during the Miss Iraq Pageant in Baghdad, December 19, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
It was smoky, alcohol-free and there was no swimsuit contest, but the party produced the first Miss Iraq in four decades and left everyone feeling a small victory had been won.
"Some people out there think we don't love life," said Humam al-Obeidi, one of the organizers, as the crowd spilled out of the Baghdad hotel ballroom where the pageant was held on Saturday.
The jury chose Shaima Qassem (first from left in picture), a tall, green-eyed 20-year-old from the city of Kirkuk.
The decision was popular with those attending, especially in the back rows, where young men with beards and tight blazers had been standing on their chairs shouting her name.
"I'm very happy to see Iraq going forward," the new beauty queen said. "This event was huge and put a smile on the faces of the Iraqis."
There was more talking than glamorous strutting during the pageant as the contestants, in high heels and evening dresses that were sleeveless but below the knee, pitched their charity projects to the jury.
The winner said she would use her fame to champion educational initiatives, especially among the huge population of people displaced by conflict.
Iraq is wracked by an ongoing war against the Islamic State group, and plagued by deep sectarian tensions and corruption.
But the pageant, which culminated with the jury announcing the winner as Beethoven's Ode to Joy filled the ballroom, left participants, organizers and guests feeling that beating the gloom was part of the war effort.
"I think it is wonderful; it makes you feel that things can return to normal," said veteran human rights activist Hana Edwar.
It was the first time the Miss Iraq competition had been held since 1972.