Royalty for a Year: Iraq Elects a Beauty Queen (Discreetly)

ByABC News
April 5, 2006, 9:43 AM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 5, 2006 — -- While Iraqi politicians compete ferociously over who will be the next prime minister, nearly a dozen young Iraqi women with different backgrounds and creeds managed to compete peacefully for a beauty title.

The 60th annual Miss Iraq Pageant was held in Baghdad today, an event that was much shunned during the last decades.

After a two-hour ceremony under tight security, Tamar Goregian, 23, the first Armenian Iraqi to win the pageant, officially became the "Iraqi Queen of Beauty."

The pageant, held at a heavily guarded Baghdad social club away from the media, wasn't accessible to the public.

The audience contained mostly friends and family members of the contestants. Days before the event, nine contestants, including five Muslim girls, withdrew, fearing repercussions for participating in a "taboo" competition. Eleven contestants remained.

In the years that followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the pageant took place in an exotic hotel in Africa among the exiled Iraqi community.

This year's one-day, underground event -- with a limited stage, no designers and no choreographers -- contrasted sharply with the usual weeklong celebration and rehearsals.

Despite the curtailed program, the 11 women gave it their best. The contestants paraded, then split into two groups and strutted their stuff in casual wear as a Baghdad guitarist played rock music.

After the musical recess, the contestants donned one-piece bathing suits, sarongs, hats or silk robes. After the evening gown competition, six girls were nominated as finalists.

Audience members jotted down the name of their favorite contestant and then the panel of four judges weighed in.Goregian received the most votes from the audience and from the judges, earning her the title.

Aside from queen of beauty, the audience also elected a teen queen and a queen of grace.