Sammy Nickalls
December 22, 2015 5:09 pm

On Saturday, history was made. Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman, 20, was crowned Miss Iraq — the first time a Miss Iraq has been crowned in over 40 years. But Abdulrahman didn’t just win over the 150 other women who applied. She conquered over the people who were threatening her life.

The last time a Miss Iraq was crowned was in 1972, when Wijdan Burhan al-Deen held the title. However, over the past several decades, the internal chaos within the country has stopped the pageant. . . that is, until now. “I want to prove that the Iraqi woman has her own existence in society, she has her rights like men,” Abdulrahman told NBC News. “I am afraid of nothing, because I am confident that what I am doing is not wrong.”

Organizers hoped, according to the official website, that the contest would “create life in Iraq,” “revive our country,” and “highlight the bright side of Iraq.”

However, there were death threats made on the event’s official Facebook page that made organizers delay the event from its original start date in November to December. The threats made against the contestants made the number of contestants dwindle to just a few due to backlash and severe opposition.

“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.”

Being named Miss Iraq has been a dream of Abdulrahman’s since she was just a girl. She initially had to convince her parents to let her compete.

“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 told NBC News, explaining that the people of Iraq were “badly in need of such cultural activities” after the past several grueling decades.

Abdulrahman has endured a lot over her life, including the death of two of her cousins, who were members of the country’s federal police and were killed during the fighting of ISIS.

“[I hope] to reflect the culture of Iraq,” she told NBC News. “[It’s] not about beauty alone. . . I call all Iraqi girls to feel this experience.”

(Images via Twitter, Instagram.)

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