In November, Iraq’s Miss Universe contestant Sarah Idan snapped a selfie with her friend Adar Gandelsman, who was competing as Miss Israel. Both women posted the selfie to their Instagram accounts, and the result was disastrous.
Gandelsman told Israeli TV that Idan and her family have been receiving death threats.
“People made threats against her and her family that if she didn’t return home and take down the photos, they would remove her [Miss Iraq] title, that they would kill her,” Gandelsman said.
Idan, 27, who lives in the United States, tweeted about the incident.
“I’m not the first nor the last person to face prosecution over a matter of personal freedom. Millions of Iraqi women live in fear. #freeiraqiwomen,” she wrote.
Now, many of Idan’s relatives in Iraq have gone into hiding in the midst of the death threats, according to Newsweek.
"My mom was freaking out, Idan told CNN. “I told her 'Mom, just get out. Get out.' I told her I'm sorry and asked if she wants me to leave the competition. I was ready to drop out right then."
On Instagram, Idan defended her choice to befriend and be photographed with Miss Israel.
“I want to stress that the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries,” she wrote. In that post, she stressed that the selfie does not indicate that she supports the Israeli government.
Idan posted selfies on Instagram with many of her competitors, including Miss Venezuela, Miss Nepal, Miss Jamaica, Miss Singapore and Miss Nigeria.
"When I posted the picture I didn't think for a second there would be blowback," Idan told CNN. "I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary."
The original selfie was captioned Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel."
Idan told CNN, “I said 'let's take a picture so our people can see we don't have a problem and we're actually ambassadors for peace.'"
It isn’t the first time Idan has had to endure online death threats. After she wore a bikini during a preliminary competition, she was also targeted.
Currently, Idan said she is worried about traveling back to Iraq during the aftermath of the controversy. This year marked a milestone: It was the first time in 45 years a contestant from Iraq participated in the pageant.