It’s rare to find a firm believer in peace standing firm and true in the face of direct death threats made against her.
But Sarah Idan has and continues to do so. Crowned Miss Iraq in 2017, Idan will now be the recipient of another award – the Ambassador for Peace Award 2019 - in recognition of her courageous and extraordinary actions to promote tolerance, build bridges for peace, and spread a message of hope and unity at a ceremony in Geneva on 13 June.
Idan’s life changed at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017 where she was representing Iraq. During the pageant, Idan posed for a photograph with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, and shared it on her Instagram as an expression of peace and unity. Immediately after posting, Idan received a slew of hostile criticism, hateful comments, and death threats directed at her and her family.
The consequence of undertaking her unifying act was that her family was forced to flee Iraq, and Idan has remained fearful of returning home ever since.
Idan made headlines again last year when she visited Israel, caught up again with Adar Gandelsman, and bonded with Iraqi Jews who were expelled from Iraq in 1948 after having lived there for over 2,500 years.
“Sarah Idan was chosen for her courageous and extraordinary actions to promote tolerance, build bridges for peace, and spread a message of hope and unity,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch Executive Director. “In face of horrific threats, she has become an online advocate for peace, and a fearless opponent of terrorism, hatred and antisemitism.”
Founder and CEO of the Forward Humanity organisation which unites people and finds common ground between different faith and ethnic groups, Idan joins an illustrious list of previous Ambassador for Peace award recipients, including Russian dissident and world chess champion Garry Kasparov; Dr Massouda Jalal, Afghanistan’s first Minister for Women’s Affairs and Esther Mujawayo, an activist for victims of the genocide in Rwanda.
According to Idan, her early experiences in Iraq—understanding what it is like to live under a terrorist regime—led her to speak out.
She told JNS, “I remember living under [Saddam Hussein’s] regime in Iraq during the war with the US. [He] used to place his military and missiles in civilian areas, even in a school one block from our home. When a U.S. airplane would fly by, the military would fire at it, and we would just pray that [the Iraqi military] would stop because if the airplane fired back, many homes would be destroyed and many innocent families would end up dead.
“This is the exact situation in Gaza,” Idan said. “An oppressive terrorist group firing at Israel, aiming to kill innocent people and at the same time, they endanger the lives of families living in Gaza. After seeing the photos of people injured and dead, how can I remain silent?”
The prize will be presented to Idan at a Geneva ceremony attended by senior diplomats of the UN Human Rights Council, during UN Watch’s 2019 annual gala dinner on June 13.