For four long years, life has been brutally unkind to most Iraqis, but Friday night they had one of those rare moments to focus beyond the daily violence that is swallowing their lives. One of their own, Shadha Hassoun, took first prize in the Arab version of American Idol.
In a turquoise evening dress, Hassoun wrapped herself with the white, red and black flag of Iraq and broke into tears as fans swarmed the stage in Beirut, Lebanon, where the contest was held and broadcast live throughout the Middle East.
"Her triumph will show the world that Iraqis will still sing despite their wounds," Israa Tariq, a homemaker from Baghdad's al-Ghadeer neighborhood, said before Friday's final episode.
Iraqis have been glued to their TVs each Friday since December, eagerly monitoring Hassoun's progress in the "Star Academy" contest that is produced by a Lebanese satellite channel.