Former Miss Iraq still gets death threats, disses Miss Universe pageant

Sarah Idan is in a New York state of mind. Thousands of miles from Thailand, where the new Miss Universe was being crowned, the former Miss Iraq is light years from last year’s pageant, when a selfie controversy erupted over a charged selfie with Miss Israel.

“Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel” was the Instagram entry seen around the world, nearly sparking an international incident.

On her first visit to NYC, 28-year-old Idan dissed the pageant, which she says is fixed. “It’s always the same countries every year,” says the outspoken woman who was the first Miss Iraq in 45 years.

Despite ongoing death threats — including from Hamas — Idan says she’s still tight with Miss Israel, who she FaceTimes and texts regularly. In recent weeks, Idan begged Miss Israel to seek safety as mortars were raining on Israeli civilians.

It’s all part of the work she does for her LA-based organization, Humanity Forward. She even visited Israel in the spring to speak about the importance of dialogue and better relations, and the LA Consulate of Israel hosted her recently to speak on the history of Jews in Iraq.

Idan says most media accounts about her are incorrect. Growing up in Baghdad during the Iraq War, she dreamed of living in America — so she volunteered as a translator and was officially employed by the US military. She was an accidental beauty queen after moving to the states in 2010 on a green card provided by the military.

While her loved ones rebuked her at the time as a radical (for wanting to learn English and move to the US as a teen), they’ve become fully supportive of her mission to fight Middle Eastern culture that “oppresses women.”

Her family fled Iraq three days after the controversial selfie. But because she’s so terrified for their safety, she will only say they’re now in a Middle Eastern country.

She’s using that fear to fuel her work: Idan is in NYC to record music — with messages of unity and hope — alongside Jewish and Israeli producers.

Israeli producer Irit Tenhengel says of Idan’s new song “Silence,” about suffering in Darfur and Syria: “She’s the best one for the song. I can get any big artist — but she walks the walk. And the world is silent. No one cares,” that Idan is the brave voice for so many who are silenced.

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