After she publicly supported Israel and rebuked her government and country’s media before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this month, some Iraqi members of parliament are calling for Sarah Idan’s citizenship to be revoked.
Idan, who served as Miss Iraq in the 2017 beauty pageant, made headlines when she posed for a picture with Adar Gandelsman, who was representing the Jewish state as Miss Israel. After the two women publicized their warm interaction and their picture went viral, Idan, who lives in California, received death threats, and her remaining family members in Iraq were forced to flee the country.
View this post on Instagram
الأسبوع الذي مضى قضيته بمؤتمر الامم المتحدة. الكلام الذي سمعته من سفير العراق لو كنت لا اعلم بوضع البلد من الداخل كان تخيلت العراق جنة على حسب وصفهم 😑 راح اشارك خطاباتي عن قريب.. #صوتنا_وصل_لا_تقلقوا ✌🏻last week I spent at the @unitednations summit in Geneva. Touched on important issues and can’t wait to share my speeches soon! Love & Peace ✌🏻 #missiraq #unitednations #geneva #talkingpeace #womeninblack #womenempowerment
Despite those threats, Idan kept up a relationship with Gandelsman and made a public visit to Israel where she spent time with Jews and Arabs and toured the country. Later, she and Gandelsman reunited to raise money for the volunteer Israeli ambulance service, Hatzalah.
On July 2, Idan testified before the UN Human Rights Council in support of Israel, on the invitation of UN Watch, an NGO with a frequent focus on Israel that monitors human rights infringement by the UN. Idan told the story of the backlash of her moment of diplomacy at the pageant, including the threats she received and the fact that she can no longer safely return to her home country. “Why did the Iraqi government fail to condemn the threats or allow my freedom of speech?” she asked.
She accused Iraqi leaders of acting out of an animus against Israel that goes beyond political motivation. “It’s deeply rooted in the belief system taught in Muslim countries, which are anti-Semitic,” she said. “Sadly hatred and intolerance are reinforced by biased media,” she added, noting that news organizations she watched do not report on Hamas rockets into Israel. “I’d like to remind Arab countries that today you share more common interests with Israel than the terrorist militias,” she said.
On Tuesday, Baghdad Today reports, Iraqi Member of Parliament Ali al-Ghanmi called for Idan to be “held accountable by law.” A member of the Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee, he suggested that the committee look into withdrawing Idan’s Iraqi citizenship.
“This is inhumane. I’m speechless,” Idan tweeted in response to the news. The group UN Watch has appealed to the president of the UN Security Council to intervene in the potential retaliation by the Iraqi government, which the group claims would be illegal. Idan also gained the support of Yair Netanyahu, the far-right son of the Israeli Prime Minister, who tweeted at her, “We love you in Israel! you have a lot of fans in Israel, America and around the world!”
In her harsh condemnations of the Arab world, Idan finds allies in far-right Israel supporters like the youthful Netanyahu. But politically, Idan’s politics are closer to the center. After addressing the UNHRC, Idan told Israel’s i24 News, “I’m not a far-right person who believes in only Israel’s existence — I believe in [the] two state solution,” she said. “And I think the problem is, there are some people on both sides — there are far right in the west and Israel who believe it should be only Israel and no Palestine, and there are many millions as well in the Middle East who believe there should be only Palestine, no Israel. And I’m the person in the middle who says, ‘No. There should be two states, and the two people should be able to live normally.’”
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny