Beauty queen defiant amid racist abuse

The first dark-skinned winner of the Miss Algeria beauty pageant has hit back at critics who have hurled racial abuse at her on social media.

“I will not back down because of the people who criticised me,” Khadija Ben Hamou told Algerian news site TSA.

Slurs about her skin colour, nose and lips have been made about her on Facebook and Twitter.

Darker-skinned Algerians face discrimination in the North African state.

Ms Ben Hamou, who comes from the southern Adrar region, said that she was proud of her identity and winning the competition.

“I am honoured that I have achieved my dream, and I am honoured by the state of Adrar where I come from,” she said.

“I also encourage the girls of my region to participate in the competition if they wish to do so,” she added.

Ms Ben Hamou took part in 20 rounds of the competition before being crowned Miss Algeria 2019 on Saturday.

Her critics said she did not represent the beauty of Algeria, but she has received support from others on social media.

This beautiful lady is Khadija Ben Hamou. She was just chosen Miss Algeria 2019.

Sadly some users on Arab twitter are attacking & insulting her because she is a woman of color.

You are stunning Khadija.

Let's show her some love. ❤#خديجة_بن_حمو@akhbar pic.twitter.com/SwwlznQZi7

End of Twitter post by @jenanmoussa

Khadija Ben Hamou is the first black woman to win the title of Miss Algeria Beauty Pageant.
You are Beautiful..Don't let all the negative racist things some of your people are saying weigh you down. You are blessed. Keep shinning. Black is Beautiful. pic.twitter.com/TzOyQZJj7c

End of Twitter post by @hugoseal

Ms Ben Hamou told TSA, “Do not judge people without their knowledge, there is no difference between black and white.”

Miss Algerie, the pageant organiser, said it deplored “the racist behaviour and comments of several people as a result of publications and retouched photos”.

Why black women are taunted in North Africa

By Mouna Ba, BBC Arabic

Beauty in Algeria and other North African countries is related to the colour of your skin – the whiter you are, in the view of many people in the region, the more beautiful you are.

So when some Algerians realised that Miss Algeria – who is going to represent them internationally – was black it was a shock for them. The abuse Ms Ben Hamou received on social media referenced her skin colour and mocked the shape of her nose and lips. Some said she looked like a man.

Black women also are taunted in my country, Morocco, about their skin colour, especially when they are younger. Some people use the N-word for example. It happened to me a lot in my school.

The problem in North Africa is that you get the feeling that people do not even realise that they are being racist when they talk in this manner. Ms Ben Hamou’s experience may open people’s eyes about the problem of racism, but I doubt it will change attitudes.

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