Editorial | Republic Underground
April 1, 2021
In March, Republic Underground news met with inspiring women for the Women’s Month roundtables. The following is an introductory transcript recap of one of the latter Women’s Month events.
Sarah Idan is a powerhouse humanitarian, musician, beauty queen, and so forth. She is perhaps best known for defying the social standards of the Middle East by meeting with and posing with Miss Israel at the Miss Universe contest in Tokyo, Japan in 2017.
“Today we have a special guest for Republic Underground’s series celebrating successful and inspiring women as part of the Women’s History Month commemoration in the U.S. That’s the entire month of March. With us today is Sarah Idan, who is not only former Miss Iraq but is now the CEO of Humanity Forward and an all-around wonderful human being,” said Tsukerman.
“Thank you, Irina. Thank you for hosting me,” said Idan.
“You’ve become quite known you’ve created quite a stir with your 2017 picture with Miss Israel. That caused all sorts of reactions even though it was a genuine peace-building effort. Your family ended up being threatened and you came to the United States,” said Tsukerman.
“What inspired you to be the person that was at that moment taking the picture? Who were your role models? Who were the people who inspired you to see other people as individuals no matter where they came from?” asked Tsukerman.
Idan answered truthfully that she had always been naturally curious.
“I think I’ve always been like this whole my life. I enjoy talking to people, and I enjoy talking to people that I didn’t know anything about. I like to live and learn. I guess a huge part of why I took the selfie…you know, I could have gone with it without taking the photo? But I guess it was some sense of guilt that I felt at the time because she was really scared to come and talk with me. I didn’t know why in the beginning and then she showed me her sash that said Miss Israel,” said Idan.
As Miss Universe contestants, she explained that this should not be an issue, as both contestants were present to be role models for younger people, girls namely. She held onto this sentiment even though she and her family faced mass death threats in the wake of taking the photo. These events made international headlines appearing on outlets. Idan refused to remove the 2017 Instagram photos despite the death threats.
The New York Jewish Week reported in 2018 that Idan met with her Miss Israel counterpart Adar Gandelsman in 2017. She posed to take a photo with her again in 2018 in Jerusalem.
Tsukerman then asked Idan how she was drawn to stay involved in politics after this controversial event when she could have chosen to stay out of the limelight after her goodwill act.
Idan made note of the fact, for a mistaken audience, that she came to the United States after the pageant, but she had been in the U.S. for a while. Idan is a musician, as well as a humanitarian.
“Seeing the backlash that I faced and the death threats that I got whether it was from Hamas or ISIS or all those crazy people, and seeing how many people that were hating me and attacking me. They were starting propaganda and lies saying she was a CIA or Mossad agent, and all these crazy conspiracy theories. Besides the antiSemitic comments, I was getting in messages. I realized that there was this huge problem, that, it’s not that I wasn’t aware of I just never focused on it before. I realized that there was tension between the Muslims and Jews, and the tension in the Middle East, but I never really focused on that before. Because I never had to go through that experience before. I’m not Jewish, I’m not anywhere close to Israel like Jordan…” said Idan.
Tsukerman then asked Idan if she noticed any changes with the Abraham Accords, or if things were still at the same status that they were before her controversial symbolic photo.”
“Yeah, you’d be amazed by how many people want peace, but they are afraid to say anything because of their government. They don’t want to be persecuted in their own homeland,” said Idan.
She also noted a feeling of fortune that she was in the United States where freedom of speech still provides her with much greater liberation to speak than in Iraq.
“For me, I have the fortune of being lucky of being in the United States. So, I can speak my mind unlike millions of Iraqis in Iraq. I definitely remember in the beginning when it happened, I received more backlash from my people than support, but after the Abraham Accords, I’ve noticed a lot more Iraqis started to come forward and talk about it. I feel it’s because there’s this hope, that they saw a few countries and they’re like “okay, maybe we will join them soon.” And maybe through the Abraham Accords, those people started to read more, they wanted to understand. It could be many things.”