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Miss Afghanistan wins award at Miss Earth
( 2003-11-10 10:17) (Agencies)

Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai, condemned in her homeland for parading in a bikini at the Miss Earth contest, won the pageant's first "beauty for a cause" award on Sunday.

Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai waves to photographers during an event for the Miss Earth contest in Manila Oct. 23, 2003.   [Reuters/File]
The 23-year-old Samadzai, the first Afghan in three decades to take part in a beauty contest, failed to make it to the contest's semifinals.

But judges announced that, for the first time, they were handing out a "beauty for a cause" prize. They awarded it to Samadzai for "symbolizing the newfound confidence, courage and spirit of today's women" and "representing the victory of women's rights and various social, personal and religious struggles."

They said the award would be given annually from now on and it was not clear if it was created especially for Samadzai.

Samadzai could face prosecution if she returns to her native country because of her attire at the Manila pageant, a senior Afghan justice official said Saturday.

Fazel Ahmad Manawi, deputy head of Afghanistan's Supreme Court, told The Associated Press that Samadzai, a college student in California, had betrayed Afghan culture by appearing at the Miss Earth contest in a bikini and may have also broken the law.

"I hope that this lady regrets her actions," Manawi said. He added that Afghan prosecutors may open an investigation, but refused to say what charges or penalties Samadzai could face.

Regardless of any legal action, Samadzai's parading down a catwalk in a red bikini during the contest's qualification last month was a radical departure from the traditional image of Afghan women.

Samadzai left Afghanistan in 1996 to study in the United States.

The Miss Earth crown went Sunday to Miss Honduras Dania Prince. Brazil's Pricila Zandona was selected first runner-up, Costa Rica's Marianela Zeledon Bolanos was chosen second runner-up, and Miss Poland Marta Matyjasik was third runner-up.

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