Women of Egypt in Photos

Women of Egypt Women of Egypt is dedicated to showing the world different sides of Egyptian women, outside the box of the regular ones in Western media.

Please let me take the opportunity to introduce them to you. The captions are the group’s own.

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1956 seven beauty queens across the republic were crowned, competitions in Alexandria, Cairo, Beni Suef and other cities.

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Military training for Egyptian girls in the 60s

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Folk dancers Farida Fahmy and Mahmoud Reda

Photo credits: Women in Egypt

 

 

Photos of Iraqi Beauty Queens

The beauty queen contest was once a natural part of the Iraqi society and the country is still represented in international beauty contests, at the moment being by Ruth Benyamin. But it’s no longer possible to hold the competition in Iraq. Here are some glimpses of former Iraqi beauty queens.

Thank you Talat Model Management for allowing me to publish these photos!

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1947: Renee Dangour, the first Miss Iraq

1972: Iraq’s Maiden of Beauty Contest. Wijdan Sulyman, no 19, won the pageant and went on to represent Iraq in Miss Universe the same year

1972: Miss Iraq Wijdan Sulyman in the middle, during the Miss Universe Pageant in Puerto Rico

Miss Iraq’s logo 1987-2006

 

Photo credit: Talat Model Management

Ruth Benyamin – The Real Miss Iraq 2013

Getting hold of Ruth Benyamin, the 67th Miss Iraq and winner of this year’s Miss Iraq competition, is not easy. The competition is no longer accepted by everyone, why in recent years Iraq’s beauty queens has stepped down one after another after death threats from hardcore religious groups, the competition had to move abroad – and Talat model agency that are handling the contest are careful. Over the course of a few months I exchange e-mails with the agency and upon request e-mail the questions that I want to ask in advance. Then all of a sudden I am in touch with the current Miss Iraq of 2013, or, as she boldly calls herself on Twitter and other social media: The Real Miss Iraq.

Ruth Benyamin was chosen in June this year after the first winner stepped down, but not due to death threats this time, according to Ruth it is because she wanted to get married – there seem to be many reasons for the Iraqi beauty queens not being able to hold on to their title. Ruth tells me that she in general is discouraged from giving interviews for security reasons, but she takes her time and writes me several e-mails with long replies to the questions. Born to an Iraqi father and a Hungarian mother, Ruth is actually one of the few Iraqis winning the last years’ competition.

“Miss Iraq is an old competition, being a titleholder is a great honor” she says. “I am the 67th titleholder, 66 previous amazing women have worn the crown, and they have represented different Iraqi ethnic backgrounds and have done well in their lives.”

This year’s competition was held in private and not advertised, why Ruth was officially crowned in a private cocktail party in Heidelberg, Germany. She explains that not many people know about the contest since the organizers keep a low profile due to the threats, and because of this, holding the crown doesn’t give her as much media attention as it could:

“The pageant itself is not a televised competition so it doesn’t get much exposure. There were attempts by organizers to sell air rights to various Iraqi TV satellite stations, but the deal were rejected as TV stations had their own reservations, plus they didn’t want to be attacked by Iraq’s hard line Shiite government.”

Her guess is that this will remain the conditions for the competition, citing the dependency on the country’s security but also the fact the modelling industry in Iraq is very limited and that there is no Iraqi fashion magazines.

Although born and raised in UK, Ruth has visited Iraq several times and have ideas about the potential development of the country. She points out that she believes the situation in Iraq will remain the same unless a three state solution is adopted; this means that apart from the already existing autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Southern/Central Iraq should be divided into two states, in order to curb the ethnic violence. She seems well acquainted with this political idea:

“Part of my work as Miss Iraq is promoting such a plan, a peaceful three-state solution. There is already a Miss Kurdistan which is treated as a contest that represents an independent country, and it’s not called Iraqi Kurdistan, for example.” Later on, when explaining why she would recommend another young Iraqi woman to participate in the competition, she adds: “You become nationalistic once you compete. We were 16 girls who competed in the 2013 edition in Mombasa-Kenya, each representing a city state. I represented Lagash (state in South-Eastern Iraq, author’s comment), we did not win local pageants, because there are no local pageants, but each candidate wears a banner of a city state and it was an amazing experience to learn about our heritage, culture and history.”

Ruth was modelling part time before being crowned Miss Iraq and is all positive about the sudden change in her life that the title has brought her:

“Talat Models has kept me busy travelling from one place to another. I have been to Dubai (where I am based, I am provided a luxury furnished apartment which I share with Miss Teen Iraq, Lina Ovadia), I have been invited by the Iraqi community in Brazil, Germany, I visited Frankfurt, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Budapest, Rome, and I will visit Sydney and Auckland later in December… The advantages are that I get public relations training, etiquette classes, a model portfolio, public speaking.”

She hopes for a career in hotel management and believes that the work experiences she gets as Miss Iraq is beneficial for the future. As for her personal experience, she says:

“The title has shaped my personality and my perspective on life, it definitely boosted my confidence as young lady.”

Entering the contest was not only a daring decision for a young Iraqi woman, living outside Iraq is not necessarily a guarantee for safety; Ruth is also Jewish, an Iraqi minority that left the country en masse due to suppression, especially during the 1940s and 50s but also after. So what was the response from the Iraqi community on her participation?

“I guess some people like me, some don’t, so far the twitter feedbacks have been positive. Some feel because I’m Jewish that I don’t represent Iraq” she says, then adding, diplomatically: “But those are a minority.”

And diplomacy is definitely a much needed skill, when being in the sometimes dangerous position of the Iraqi beauty queen, that many of her predecessors have left in advance. The Real Miss Iraq seems to hold it up very well so far.

Photocredit: http://iraqibeauties.blogspot.com/

Iraqi Beauty Queens

If I say Iraq, what comes to your mind? Most people might not associate it with the Miss Iraq Beauty Competition. This competition started in 1947 with Renee Dangoor as Miss Iraq and has since been held annually and was preceded by the Miss Baghdad competition that started as early as 1934.

Renee was Jewish, and scrolling through the winners the differences reveal a society that hosted plural religions and ethnicities, where a certain  name or background didn’t hold you back from public achievements.

During the centuries the competition developed accordingly with the surrounding world; it became a scholarship program; in the 70s the swimming suit part was removed in response to the feminist movement (although reintroduced later on); and in 2002 an attempt was being made to merge it with an Iraqi Eurovision song context. As time had it’s influence – in 2003 when the society started to collapse and extremist groups began their ruling by fear, it became impossible to hold the competitions inside Iraq. Since then it has been staged abroad: in Kenya, France and Turkey. Wealthy liberal Iraqis outside the country set up the competition and young Iraqi women in exile participated. Iraqis I know often speak about the good old times, when Iraq was a dynamic and rich society, not the sad and messy country we are so used to from the news today. The struggle for the Iraqi beauty competitions might be a reminder for people whos country no longer is.

In the last years, the circumstances around the competition has taken a new turn: the participants consists of less and less women of Iraqi descents. In 2006 the newly crowned miss Iraq Tamar Goregian resigned after four days – she had been threatened by an extremist group calling her “the queen of infidels”. Before taking the decision to step down, when still hopeful, Tamara bravely said: Maybe beauty is the final step to end violence and preach world peace after all. The power of beauty surpasses the ugly face of politics and greed.” Other participants pulled out after her. Even though being outside, they didn’t feel safe. Now white women from former Yugoslavia and Spain have taken the places of the Iraqis.

No matter what one might think about beauty pageants, in a free world everyone should have the right to join one or demonstrate against it. I hope the Iraqi women will come back one day and claim their rightsome place.