Iraq conquers fear at beauty festival

Iraq conquers fear at beauty festival

Iraq conquers fear at beauty festival

An Iraqi model is made up backstage before a show during the festival. AFP photo

Long targeted during the country’s sectarian war, Iraq’s best hairdressers and beauticians have held a festival in central Baghdad to show their talents, a symbolic move to break with years of fear.

The event, officially called the Make-up, Hairdressing and Fashion Show, was organized over the weekend in the small Sadeer Hotel in Andalus Square, the first of its kind since the 2003 US-led invasion and its violent aftermath.

It is the latest in a series of efforts by the Iraqi capital’s residents to benefit from a decline in violence from its peak in 2006 and 2007 and restore Baghdad, once a dynamic and liberal city in the Middle East.

“The most important thing about this festival is spotlighting the brightness of Iraqi women, which has gone unseen by the world,” said Nadya Hamza Fuad, one of the organizers.

Shy participants

“This is a first for us after the events of 2003,” she said. “We see it as a first step towards achieving success.” “Darkness used to dominate, and the light of beauty was extinguished 10 years ago, especially in women’s salons. Society has been held back because of the dark period.”

The festival, sponsored by Iraq’s Labor and Tourism Syndicate, brought together a handful of shy participants, upon whom beauticians and hairdressers showcased their talents, and a crowd of onlookers in two conference rooms in the hotel where the festival was held.

It marked a sharp difference from the climate that once prevailed in the country, when tens of thousands were killed in the insurgency and sectarian war that followed the invasion that ousted now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Religious extremists in particular targeted hairdressers, most of whom closed their shops in fear. Women, few of whom were veiled pre-2003, were suddenly forced to cover themselves and stay at home.