tell me again why we give a shit about iraq?

Miss Iraq forced to go into hiding after death threats

By Jerome Taylor

Published: 14 April 2006

Tamar Goregian, a 23-year old Armenian Iraqi, stood before a small crowd in a secret location in Baghdad last Friday and wept with joy. She had just won the coveted title of Miss Iraq 2006 and was hoping to travel to Los Angeles to take part in July’s Miss Universe competition.

“Maybe beauty is the final step to end violence and preach world peace after all,” she told friends and fellow contestants packed into the heavily guarded nightclub. Four days later, Ms Goregian was forced to renounce her crown and flee to Jordan after receiving death threats from fundamentalists calling her the “Queen of Infidels”.

“I respect her decision,” said the pageant’s director. “The country is undergoing rough times and we understand her desire to protect herself and her family.”

It was never going to be easy to hold a beauty pageant in a country where every day brings more violence and bloodshed. Almost half of the 20 contestants dropped out on the day of the competition and the organisers had taken numerous precautions to keep the event a secret even from the media.

The organisers had hoped that sending an Iraqi to the Miss Universe competition would show a different side to the war-torn country, and provide a welcome respite from the daily diet of atrocities that dominates most news from Iraq.

On Wednesday, a fellow contestant, Silva Shahakian, a Christian who originally came fourth in the competition, said she was prepared to take over from Ms Goregian as Miss Iraq. Speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America, Ms Goregian confirmed she would keep her title but said she would have to go into hiding.

“This chance does not come to every girl. So I’m lucky to have that. I’m not going to lose it,” she told the programme on Tuesday. “I’ll take care. I will change my living space. I would like to take that chance, I will do my best,” she said.

Global beauty pageants have frequently fallen foul of traditional sensibilities in the developing world as more countries try to cash in on holding the contests, which bring with them money and publicity.

In 1996, riots erupted in India during the Miss World competition, and in Nigeria’s competition in 2002 more than 200 people were killed in clashes when a local journalist suggested the Prophet Mohamed would have approved of the Miss World competition that was being held there.

Last week’s contest in Iraq was the first to be held inside the country since the US-led invasion – previous hopefuls had been forced to travel to Kenya and enter competitions there. The last time Iraq sent a delegate to a Miss Universe competition was in 1972, when Wijdan Sulyman represented her country in Puerto Rico. The pageant organisers say they still hope to send Ms Shahakian to com

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