Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman, a 20-year-old economics student, has shaken off death threats to rivals and a slew of criticism to become the first official Miss Iraq since 1972.

More than 150 women applied for the Miss Iraq pageant, which organizers said was a chance to “create life in Iraq” and “revive our country” after years of Civil War during which scores of civilians have been killed.

“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.”

Out of all the applicants, 15 contestants dropped out of the race, according to one of the judges, Iraqi fashion designer Sinan Kamel. At least two of these women had received death threats.


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Abdulrahman also added that the competition was “not about beauty alone.” Her parents had initially prohibited her from entering the competition.

She has also been directly affected, like man other Iraqis, by the terror inflicted by ISIS. Two of her cousins were federal police officers until they were killed during a fight with the militants.

Wijdan Burhan al-Deen, who won in 1972, was the last internationally recognized Miss Iraq. That same year, she represented her country at the Miss Universe competition.

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