Most of us don’t think twice before posting a selfie on social media but for one beauty pageant contestant from Iraq, an Instagram selfie turned into a horrifying nightmare which eventually forced her to flee from homeland with her family, fearing for her safety.
So why did the photo of two beautiful young women smiling together turn into such a big controversy? Apparently, it was because she posed next to her fellow contestant from Israel – one of Iraq’s biggest adversaries.
Sarah Idan Becomes the First Woman to Represent Iraq in Miss Universe in 45 Years
Almost a month ago when Sarah Idan appeared on the Miss Universe pageant to represent her country, Iraq, she had no idea that only a small action would make her entire family a target of death threats and eventually force them to flee for their life. Idan became the first Iraqi contestant on Miss Universe in 45 years.
It was definitely a huge breakthrough for the country – but for Idan, the happiness was short-lived. The 27-year-old contestant told CNN in an interview that she had been dreaming of stepping on the stage of the famous pageant and getting cheered on by her family and friends in the crowd for years.
She was finally able to realize her dream when she graced the television screen in her beautiful Swarovski gown and even though she didn’t manage to win the contest, she definitely made history by becoming the first Iraqi woman to appear on Miss Universe in more than four decades.
Receiving Death Threats Over an Instagram Selfie
Idan, an aspiring singer and songwriter, said that she was on cloud nine after being chosen as Miss Iraq but, suddenly, everything changed. It all started with a harmless selfie of Sarah posing next to Adar Gandelsman, Miss Universe contestant representing Israel, with a caption reading “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel”.
Idan explained that the two of them decided to take a photo together in Las Vegas in a pre-pageant photoshoot to show the world that there needn’t be anything but peace and love between all nations. Her message received a mixed response from her audience. While her international followers appreciated the warm gesture Idan showed towards her Israeli counterpart, people from her own country were not happy about the photo.
A week before the start of the pageant, Idan began receiving disturbing messages over social media from strangers who threatened to kill her and her family. Even the organization in her country that awarded her with the title of Miss Iraq, warned her to take down the Instagram photo or be prepared to face the wrath of her fellow citizens. Miss Iraq organization also threatened to strip her of the title if she failed to comply with their demand.
Fleeing for Safety
Idan also came under scrutiny due to her controversial appearance in Miss Universe preliminary bikini competition which further infuriated the fundamentalists in her country. More death threats ensued. Extremely distressed by the situation, Miss Iraq made a call to her family back home and told them what was happening.
In an interview with CNN, she said that she was extremely worried for her parents, and was ready to give up her title for their safety. For a moment, she regretting posting the controversial photo, admitting that she had no idea that it would create an international outcry. Miss Iraq Organization contacted Idan’s family to persuade her to take down the photo. They said that the ministry was putting pressure on them to take an action against Idan if she didn’t comply.
Idan refused to delete the photo but she agreed to put up another post on social media to give explanation for her actions. She said that the photo was not meant to praise Israel or its policies in the Middle East and she apologized for hurting people’s sentiments. Idan, who has a dual nationality for Iraq and the U.S. decided to flee with her family in order to stay safe. She and her family are currently residing in California and still receive death threats to this day.