Miss Iraq Sarah Idan took a selfie with Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman, which resulted in Idan’s family being forced to flee from Iraq.


Idan represented the war-torn country in Las Vegas last month for the Miss Universe competition, and a harmless selfie turned into a loaded issue. “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel #missuniverse,” Idan posted on her Instagram page, adding a heart emoji as she posed with her fellow contestant.

Idan received backlash for her post from those who oppose the state of Israel. Her family in Iraq began receiving death threats over the photo, and eventually had to flee the country. Idan was forced to write a follow-up post, in which she explained that the selfie did not signify a support of Israel or the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor was it a slight against Palestinians.

Idan, 27, is the first Iraqi Miss Universe contestant in 45 years, and she now lives in Los Angeles and holds U.S. citizenship. In an interview with CNN, Idan shared that the Iraqi organization that sent her to the pageant threatened to strip her of her crown if she did not remove the photo. Idan refused, though has stayed quiet about the incident while her family left Iraq.

“I was crying to my mom and felt like it’s my fault they left, and she said, ‘No, it’s not your fault, we live in a f–ked up society,” Idan told CNN. Despite a “strong attack from the Iraqi street,” the Miss Iraq Organization has not followed through with its threat and taken Idan’s crown.