Girls are blowing off death threats from extremists to get the opportunity to eventually become the primary globally-recognised Miss Iraq for decades.
The controversy has not been enough to discourage contestants such as Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman, a 20-year old economics student from Kirkuk.
“Our people are badly in need of such cultural activities,” the freshman told NBC News. “After all we have been through, we need to do something new that would reform our society.”
Like many Iraqis, the violence brought to her state by ISIS has directly impacted Abdulrahman. Two were members of the national police in Iraq until they were killed while fighting with the militants.
Five were also compelled to locate houses that were new a year ago after ISIS overran the northern city of Mosul.
Describing her choice to join the competition, Abdulrahman said that “such actions can rebuild what’s been destroyed.”
Iraq has an extensive history of beauty pageants that are holding.