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October 22, 2021 2:04 pm

Former Miss Iraq Tells Miss Universe Contestants to Stay ‘Confident’ Despite Anti-Israel Harassment, Call for Boycott of Pageant Set for Eilat


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan, right, speaking alongside former Miss Israel Adar Gendelsman at the AJC Global Forum in June 2018. Photo: Screenshot / YouTube.

Former Miss Iraq Sarah Idan told contestants of the upcoming Miss Universe competition set to take place in December in Eilat, Israel, not to be deterred by harassment they might receive on social media for visiting the Jewish state.

“I’d like to warn the beauty queens to prepare for an army of bots that will probably harass their social media posts while [they’re] in Israel with hashtags ‘end the occupation’ and ‘free Palestine.’ They shouldn’t worry, those aren’t even real people but fake accounts used by a few propagandists to intimidate them,” she told The Algemeiner on Friday. “This is a cheap tactic to try and silence them. Just keep doing what you doing. Stay confidently beautiful.”

Idan’s comments came after the grandson of South Africa’s former president and the late civil rights activist Nelson Mandela called on countries to boycott the 70th Miss Universe pageant because it will be held in Israel.

Nkosi Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela began advocating for a boycott of this year’s pageant on Wednesday, days after Lalela Mswane, 24, was crowned Miss South Africa 2021 — setting her on course to represent her country in the competition. In a statement that he shared on Instagram, Mandela accused Israel of a “heinous occupation” and claimed the country “violates the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people and commits crimes against humanity.”

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“Israel is an apartheid state and we will continue to mobilize all freedom loving people of the world to boycott, divest and pass sanctions against the brutal apartheid regime,” the current chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council wrote. “We must persist in isolating apartheid Israel in the same way that we isolated apartheid South Africa.”

He urged all African countries to withdraw from the Miss Universe pageant in Israel and all Miss Universe participants around the world “to send us letters announcing their withdrawal and disassociating from an event that normalizes the apartheid Israel daily killing, bulldozing of homes and orchards and maiming young and innocent children.”

Idan, who is the founding CEO of the NGO Humanity Forward, received death threats and was forced to leave her home country for taking a photo with former Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant. She blasted Mandela’s calls for a boycott on Thursday in a video posted on various social media platforms.

“All I can say is: how dare you?” Idan said in the clip, addressing Mandela. “How dare you, as a man, try to tell an organization for women and women empowerment what to do? This is an opportunity that millions of women dream of having, to go on the world stage and represent their people, their nation and their culture. Not governments, not politics and definitely not your political agenda.”

Idan also slammed Mandela for using the term “apartheid” to “attack Israel,” arguing the word has been used against Israel by “radical Islamists, terrorist organizations and the Iranian regime, all of them who hate women and women’s rights.”

“Please allow Miss South Africa to go and experience Israel up close, on the ground, and let her be the judge for herself,” she added. “I’m positive, just like me, she will be shocked to see that the Israeli government consists of Muslims, Jews, Arabs, [and] Christians. Those people not only get to vote on policies, but they’re also part of the Knesset, have political parties and some of them are even Israeli ambassadors to the world.”

Idan concluded her video by telling Mswane, “I hope that you will enjoy your trip and learn not only about Israel, but about beautiful other countries. This is what the Miss Universe pageant is about.”

Malaysia, Barbados and Laos have withdrawn their participation in this year’s Miss Universe competition due to COVID-19-related restrictions.

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