Iraq's Beauty Queen Resigns After Four Days

ByHAIDER HAMZA via via logo

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 10, 2006 — -- Iraq's newly crowned beauty queen, Tamar Goregian, has decided to step down -- just four days after her election, making this the shortest reign in the pageant's 60-year history.

On April 9, the 23-year-old, who was the first Armenian Iraqi to win the Miss Iraq pageant, announced her resignation after receiving threats by a group of religious extremists who referred to her as "the queen of infidels" for participating in the contest.

The pageant director said: "I respect her decision. The country is undergoing rough times, and we understand her desire to protect herself and her family."

This was the first time since the U.S.-led war against Iraq that the pageant was held on Iraqi soil. The last time this pageant was held here was in 2002. Since then, Iraqi exiles had been forced to hold the contest in Kenya where a wealthy Iraqi businessman funded the event.

Pageant organizers had hoped to pass the crown to the runner-up, or "Maiden of Beauty," Mona Hilmi, an Iraqi Sunni Muslim. One of the organizers said she was "equally intelligent and beautiful."

However, the second and third runners-up also withdrew from the competition for security concerns. They had not received specific threats.

Miss Teen Iraq, Silva Shahakian, a Christian, accepted the title.

Pageants in Iraq usually attract girls from wealthy, liberal families who often have Western educations.

The pageant organizers are hoping to send the winner to the Miss Universe pageant in an effort to promote a positive and modern image of Iraqi women.

The last time Iraq sent a delegate to Miss Universe was in 1972 when Wijdan Sulyman represented the country in Puerto Rico. This year's Miss Universe pageant is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles on July 23.

During her acceptance speech, Goregian told the crowd, "Maybe beauty is the final step to end violence and preach world peace after all." The Iraqis who disagree have forced her to give up her crown and flee her country.

ABC News' Clark Bentson contributed to this report.

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