The family of Iraq’s Miss Universe contestant has reportedly been forced to flee the country because she posed for a photo with “Miss Israel.”
Adar Gandelsman, who represented Israel in the pageant, told Israeli media that relatives of Sarah Idan faced threats over the photo. Gandelsman added that people in Iraq were also upset because Idan wore a bikini during the Miss Universe competition.
“The two of those things together 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, that they would kill her,” Adar Gandelsman said, according to the Times of Israel.
Idan currently lives in the United States. Speaking to CNN, she recalled the inspiration for the seflie. “I said ‘let’s take a picture so our people can see we don’t have a problem and we’re actually ambassadors for peace.'”
Both women posted photos to their Instagram accounts that show them with their arms around one another. “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel,” Idan captioned her photo, which incensed many Iraqi social media users. Iraq and Israel do not maintain diplomatic relations, and Iraq does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
“When I posted the picture I didn’t think for a second there would be blowback,” Idan says. “I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary.” Idan has refused to take the photo down despite the barrage of threats, which haven’t been limited to her family. “The director of the Miss Iraq Organization called me and said they’re getting heat from the ministry. He said I have to take the picture down or they will strip me of my title.”
In a subsequent Instagram post, Idan, who has dual citizenship in the U.S and Iraq, wrote that the photo did not imply support for the Israeli government or its “policies” toward Palestinians. “I want to stress that the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries,” she wrote in Arabic.
“I’m here trying to paint a good picture about our country and our people, but instead I get a negative response. I have no support whatsoever from the Miss Iraq Organization and our government,” she told CNN. She also said the death threats are continuing to roll in and that she has no plans to return to Iraq, even though the Iraqi government is requiring her to go back there so she can renew her Iraqi passport.”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 fucked up society.'”