Miss Universe Iraq caused a stir at the international Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas by posting a photo with herself and Miss Israel. She and her family reportedly received death threats after the image became public on her Facebook and Instagram accounts.
“Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel,” Sarah Idan, who represented Iraq at the global pageant, wrote on an Instagram picture with Adar Gandelsman, Miss Israel.
Her caption on Facebook included a more in-depth message: “A message of peace from two houses who hope for improved interfaith relations,” Idan wrote.
رساله سلام من بيتين وتؤمن بتحسن العلاقات بين الاديان
The selfie went viral on the Internet in Iraq and throughout the Arab world, where Israel is hated.
Gandelsman said she had kept in touch with Idan and learned that anti-Israel sentiment launched a backlash against Miss Iraq. She and her family left the country after facing death threats, Miss Israel said. In addition to the photo with Gandelsman, Idan also posted a picture of herself in a bikini — a no-no in many Arab countries.
“The two of those things together caused a mess for her back home where people had made threats against her and her family that if she didn’t return home and take down the photos, they would remove her title [as Miss Iraq], that they would kill her,” Gandelsman told Israel’s Hadashot News, Britain’s The Telegraph reported.
“Out of fear, they left Iraq at least until the situation calms down.”
While Idan has not publicly posted about these threats on Facebook or Instagram, she did follow up the selfie with Gandelsman with an explanatory message.
“She was criticized for her beauty, Miss Iraq, when she ran into a queen — the beauty of Israel while taking pictures,” the message explained (translation from Google Translate). “She threw the peace and told me she was hoping to come. She hopes that the two religions will enjoy peace.”
Idan wrote that she “told her the hope of peace, too.” Miss Iraq clarified, however, that “the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace all amongst countries,” and that the image “is not an endorsement of the government of Israel and does not express consent or acceptance for their policy in the Arab world.”
The Telegraph reported that Idan and her family have taken refuge in the United States.