Photo: Courtesy of Shaima Qassem.
In an interview with Rudaw, Shaima Qassem, the Kurdish winner of Miss Iraq in 2015 expressed her regret for being crowned with the title as she claimed she did not receive any financial support from the Iraqi government or any other group to support her activities. She said she did her charity activities on her own.
Qassem, 20, was born in the Kurdish oil rich city of Kirkuk. She was crowned Miss Iraq in January 2016 in Baghdad.
Rudaw: You became Miss Iraq nearly a year ago, what have you done so far?
Shaima Qassem: When I was crowned, I wanted to get involved in charity activities for refugees and children suffering from cancer. Every month, I provided necessities for children and food for the refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as well as chemotherapy for children suffering cancer at my own expense. I have also helped in elderly care houses.
Have the government, officials, or Iraqi companies assisted you?
No. I felt obliged to sell a house I owned in Kirkuk for $120,000 believing that I had responsibilities to hold. With this sum, I finished projects valued at $40,000. I sacrificed the house to people because before I was crowned I was a civil activist and knew how these people were living.
Did your family agree with you selling your house? How is your economic situation?
It is intermediate. However, my father agreed with me to sell the house to finish my projects since I became Miss Iraq due to the people.
You sold your own house and helped refugees and sick kids. Why was this not published in the media?
I have done these projects for the sake of God, not social media or people. I do not have to hurt people by making advertisements and making myself rich out of these projects.
If I did not do these projects, I would be able to purchase a house in Baghdad with the money I received from selling the Kirkuk house. Now, I pay rent in Baghdad. I fled Kirkuk due to threats and cannot return.
Has not the Iraqi government allotted a salary to you?
No, just the culture minister recognized me as Miss Iraq on an international level.
Have not you visited the Kurdistan Region to obtain help?
I only visited Sulaimani. A businessman allotted a sum for us in order to take part in the Miss Earth Pageant. Some companies pledged to help me, but they did not fulfill their promises.
Is there any plan to choose a new Miss Iraq?
Yes, it is supposed to take place in March of next year.
What would you ask of the next Miss Iraq?
I would like that a new winner will be chosen because the work is very difficult but I hope the troubles I went through she does not face. I call on the government to consider the next winner as she serves her country. I am ready to help her, too.
What do you think the next Miss Iraq should focus on the most?
Children, especially those infected with cancer.
Do you have plans to nominate yourself for Miss World?
I have already been accepted onto the Miss Earth Pageant competitions and I should go to the Philippines in December of 2017. But if I am not financially supported then I will not be able to make it. (***We think she meant to say "Miss Universe Pageant")
After you take off the crown, where are you going to stay?
I will stay in Baghdad since I am a presenter on Mada Channel.
Has being in the pageant created any problems for your current job?
I faced problems with the director of Miss Iraq as they tried to force me to disappear from the media, but I did not listen to them. I do not have contact with them now.
From what are you saying, it appears you regret becoming Miss Iraq.
Yes, because nobody helped me and I do not feel like I am the winner.
Do you study?
Yes, I am a student in the economics department at Isra College, which is a private college.
Do you work with Miss Kurdistan?
No.How are you doing with social media?
I am active on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and have some pages and accounts.
Source: Rudaw.net, 12/1/2016