The family of an Iraqi beauty queen has reportedly been forced to flee the country in the face of death threats after the young model posed for a selfie with her counterpart from Israel.
Sarah Idan, Miss Iraq, and Adar Gandelsman, Miss Israel, took the picture together at a beauty pageant in Las Vegas on November 14. “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel,” she wrote.
The selfie was widely shared in Iraq and throughout the Arab world, where anti-Israel feelings run high.
Ms Gandelsman said she had stayed in touch with Ms Idan and learned that the young Iraqi and her family had fled their country in the face of the backlash, as well as criticism over a picture of her in a bikini.
“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,” Ms Gandelsman told Israel’s Hadashot News.
“Out of fear, they left Iraq at least until the situation calms down”.
Ms Idan had earlier tried to defend herself in the face of Arab anger over the photograph and said: “Posting this does not mean that I am supporting the Israeli government and does not mean that I accept any of their policies toward the Arab world.”
She added: ”I apologise to anyone who saw it as harming the Palestinian cause, this was not the purpose of the post. It’s … a call for peace and hope for an end to the crisis.”
Iraq has never recognised Israel and around 120,000 Iraqi Jews were forced out of the country after 1948 when Iraq began to pass harsh anti-Jewish legislation in response to the creation of Israel.
Iraqi and Israeli forces fought against each other in 1948, 1967 and 1973. In 1981, Israel bombed and Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad while Saddam Hussein fired missiles into Israel in 1991 and later made payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.