A former Miss Iraq fled the country last week, reports confirmed this week, after receiving numerous death threats and observing high-profile assassinations by Islamic fundamentalists of those within the beauty industry.
Shimaa Qasim Abdulrahman, who won the competition in 2015, confirmed she fled her country for Jordan after receiving a text from a man allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State that simply read: “You’re next.”
“I was threatened with murder. My life was in danger. The killing of this many people scared me,” she told local Kurdish news site Rudaw. “I wasn’t comfortable living there anymore and that is why I left Iraq and came to Jordan.”
“They said they would kill me on a Thursday evening. I initially thought about going to live in Erbil. But the situation wasn’t right,” she continued. “During the last few days I was in Baghdad, I didn’t dare to even go out of my house. I was scared even at home. What is the difference between a serious threat and frightening someone?”
Abdulrahman said she alerted Iraqi Security Forces “several times” to the threats made against her, but failed to provide concrete evidence of who was behind it. She now intends to work in Turkey as an actress.
“They killed many people in broad daylight,” she explained. “I couldn’t wait to be killed, and then say ‘Oh, that was a serious threat?’”
“I am currently talking to some Turkish producers,” she continued. “They want me to play a role in a Turkish film. I know Turkish well, which is why they need me. We are talking about the offer, but I don’t know whether we can reach agreement.”
Her decision to flee the country comes a week after fellow beauty queen and social media personality Tara Fares was assassinated while driving her car in Baghdad. Weeks before that, women’s rights activist Suad al-Ali was also shot to death while walking towards her car in the southern city of Basra.
The assailants, believed to be Islamic fundamentalists, appear to also be targeting people within the beauty industry who they deem to be harming the religious fabric of society. In August, Dr. Rafeef al-Yassiri, a female plastic surgeon known as “Iraq’s Barbie,” died under mysterious circumstances, leading people to believe she may have been poisoned. A week later, another salon owner, Rasha al-Hassan, was also found dead.
The attacks underline the ongoing security threats faced by millions of Iraqis as Islamic fundamentalism continues to gain support in the years following the U.S.-led invasion of the country. They follow years of mass bloodshed and displacement throughout the country as Kurdish Peshmerga forces fought rigorously alongside an international coalition to take back control of areas in the hands of the Islamic State.