Shimaa Qasim Abdulrahman poses for a photo at a Miss Universe event after winning Miss Iraq 2015. Photo: @shimaa_Qassim IG
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — In what some are calling the "new normal" in Iraq, a slew of women known for their popularity on social media or for owning beauty salons have been killed. Perhaps no one understands this phenomenon first-hand better than Miss Iraq 2015, Shimaa Qasim Abdulrahman.
The native of Kirkuk recently left the country after the death of fellow Iraqi beauty queen and social media star Tara Fares who was shot dead in her car in Baghdad on September 27.
Shortly after Abdulrahman won Miss Iraq in 2015 she said that she received a phone call from an ISIS member threatening to kidnap her if she did not join the extremist group.
Fares' murder, however, was the tipping point for Abdulrahman whose mother is Kurdish and father is Arab. She has left for Jordan.
"I was threatened with murder. My life was in danger. The killing of this many people scared me. I wasn’t comfortable living there anymore. That is why I left Iraq and came to Jordan," she said in a recent interview with Rudaw.
A suspect in Fares' death was arrested on September 28, but some have argued the ISIS mindset towards women in Iraq has become the new norm and even accepted. Abdulrahman shares that sentiment.
"They said they would kill me on a Thursday evening. I initially thought about going to live in Erbil. But the situation wasn’t right," she said.
She chose to flee to Jordan.
"During the last few days I was in Baghdad, I didn’t dare to even go out of my house. I was scared even at home. What is the difference between a serious threat and frightening someone?" she posited.
Abdulrahman says she reached out to Iraqi Security Forces "several times," but had no concrete proof of who was threatening her.
"They killed many people in broad daylight. I couldn’t wait to be killed, and then say ‘Oh, that was a serious threat?’ " she explained.
Abdulrahman is currently weighing her next moves, whether in cosmetics or fashion design or acting.
"I am currently talking to some Turkish producers. They want me to play a role in a Turkish film. I know Turkish well, which is why they need me. We are talking about the offer, but I don’t know whether we can reach agreement," she explained.
Abdulrahman and Fares did not know each other personally although their careers and work paralleled one another.
Fares' murder came weeks after the killing of Suad al-Ali, an Iraqi human rights activist who was shot and killed in her car in the southern city of Basra.
Their killings comes as beauty salons in the Iraqi capital have been targeted and months after the killing of Rafeef al-Yaseri a beautician and Rasha al-Hassan, a cosmetics expert in August whose murderers also have not been found or detained by police.