When Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, right, posed last month for a picture with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, she said it was an expression of a desire for peace. Idan was also pictured – gasp! – wearing a swimsuit.
Now it’s being reported that relatives of the Iraqi contestant in the Miss Universe Pageant have been forced to flee the Middle Eastern country because of death threats that followed publication of the photos.
Gandelsman said that the photos:
Caused a mess for her back home where people made threats against her and her family that if she didn’t return home and take down the photos, they would remove her (Miss Iraq) title, and that they would kill her.
Out of fear, they left Iraq at least until the situation calms down.
Gandelsman, who said she has been in contact with Idan since the competition said her friend, who lives in the US, does not regret the decision to post the photos on social media.
She did it to so that people can understand that it’s possible to live together.
Last month, Idan defended her decision in an Instagram post to pose with Gandelsman following criticism she received back home, saying it was an expression of a desire for peace and not a show of support for the government of Israel.
I want to stress that the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries.
She added that the photo of the two Miss Universe contestants, which she did not remove from her Instagram account:
Does not signal support for the government of Israel and does not mean I agree or accept its policies in the Arab homeland.
Idan went on to apologise:
To all those who consider [the picture] harmful to the Palestinian cause.
Idan explained that Gandelsman initiated the photo, saying she hoped there would be peace between Jews and Muslims and that neither side would have to send their children to the military.
Some on Arab social media raged against her decision to be photographed with an Israeli, and the comments on her Instagram post were filled with curses at her for ostensibly hurting the Palestinian cause.
Both Gandelsman and Idan published the joint selfie photos on their Instagram pages while participating in the Miss Universe International Beauty Pageant, in an unusual display of coexistence emanating from a divided Middle East.
Iraq and Israel do not have diplomatic relations and the two countries are considered enemies.
“Get to know, this is Miss Iraq and she’s amazing,” enthused Gandelsman in her original Instagram post. “Practicing bringing world peace,” she wrote on Facebook, in time-honoured beauty queen style.
“Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel,” wrote Idan on her instagram post, followed by heart emojis.
Idan was Iraq’s first contestant to take part in the event for 45 years. The last woman to compete was Wijdan Burhan El-Deen Sulyman.
Idan is 27 years old and stands 5 foot 7 inches tall. She loves singing, playing music and is a graduate in performance arts.
The winner of the contest was Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters.