The newly crowned winner of Miss Algeria beauty pageant has hit back at critics who have hurled racial abuse at her because of her skin colour.
“I will not back down because of the people who criticised me,” Khadija Ben Hamou told Algerian news site TSA.
Slurs about her dark skin colour, nose and lips have been made 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.
According to the fashion magazine Vogue, she is the second black woman – after Nassima Mokadem in 2005 – to win the annual beauty pageant. 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.
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.