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Aliaa Magda Elmahdy


CAIRO — A woman activist who posted nude pictures of herself on her blog to protest limits on free expression has triggered an uproar in Egypt, drawing condemnations from conservatives and liberals alike.

Some liberals feared that the posting by 20-year-old university student Aliaa Magda Elmahdy would taint them in the eyes of deeply conservative Egyptians ahead of Nov. 28 parliamentary elections in which they are trying to compete with fundamentalist Islamic parties.


Nudity is strongly frowned upon in Egyptian society, even as an art form. Elmahdy's posting is almost unheard of in a country where most women in the Muslim majority wear the headscarf and even those who don't rarely wear clothes exposing the arms or legs in public.


Elmahdy wrote on her blog that the photographs — which show her standing wearing only stockings — are "screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy." The blog has received 1.5 million hits since she posted the photos earlier this week.


The posting comes at a time when Egypt, a nation of some 85 million people, is polarized between Islamists and liberals ahead of the elections, the first since the February ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Members of the most hardline Islamic movement in Egypt, the Salafis, have warned voters during their campaigns that liberals will corrupt Egypt's morals.


"This hurts the entire secular current in front of those calling themselves the people of virtue," Sayyed el-Qimni, a prominent self-described secular figure, said referring to Islamists.


"It's is a double disaster. Because I am liberal and I believe in the right of personal freedom, I can't interfere," el-Qimni said Wednesday night on one of Egypt's popular TV political talk shows, "90 Minutes."


The April 6 movement, one of the most prominent liberal activist groups that led the 18-day uprising against Mubarak, issued a statement denying claims by some on the Web that Elmahdy is a member of the group.


The posting prompted furious discussions on Internet social media sites, with pages for and against her put up on Facebook.


One activist, Ahmed Awadallah, praised her in a Tweet, writing, "I'm totally taken back by her bravery."


A supporter, who identified himself as Emad Nasr Zikri, wrote in a comment on Elmahdy's blog, "We need to learn how to separate between nudity and sex." He said that before fundamentalist influence in Egypt, "there were nude models in art school for students to draw."


Some 100 people liked his comment, while thousands flooded the site with insults. Some denounced Elmahdy as a "prostitute" and "mentally sick" or urged police to arrest her.


Elmahdy did not reply to attempts by The Associated Press to contact her.


Her move comes as Salafis have become more assertive in pushing their attitude that women should be kept out of the public eye, promoting a Saudi Arabia-style segregation of the sexes. On Salafi parties' campaign banners, photos of the few female candidates are replaced by drawings of a flower.


During a recent election rally in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Salafists covered up a public statue that depicted mermaids. Salafi clerics appearing on TV talks shows have refused to appear face-to-face with female TV hosts, unless the presenter puts on a headscarf or in one case, a barrier was placed between the two. Most recently, an Islamist preacher crashed into a university musical concert in a Nile Delta province of Mansoura, saying music was forbidden by Islam and that he wanted to "promote virtue and prevent vice" — the term used for the mission of Saudi Arabia's religious police.


Women rights activist Nehad Abou el-Qomsan said conservatives "keep adding layers to cover up the women and deny their existence."


But, she said, what Elmahdy did "is also rejected because posing nude is a form of body abuse."


Elmahdy and her boyfriend Kareem Amer, also a controversial blogger, have challenged Egypt's social strictures before. Earlier this year, they posted mobile phone video footage of themselves debating with managers of a public park who threw them out for public displays of affection.


Amer, who spent four years in prison for blog posting deemed insulting to Islam and for calling Mubarak a "symbol of tyranny," chided liberals who condemned Elmahdy.


"I think we should not be afraid of those in power or Islamists, as much as we should be worried of politicians claiming to be liberal," he wrote on his Facebook page. "They are ready to sacrifice us to avoid tarnishing their image."
 

 

Attorney General receives complaint against Alia al-Mahdi, Karim Amer








The members of the public coalition of the law and Sharia (Islamic law) graduates presented a complaint to Egypt’s Attorney General against two young people for publishing naked photos of themselves online.

The case is filed against Alia al-Mahdi, a mass communications student at the American University in Cairo, and Karim Amr. The photos were posted on Mahdi’s blog, ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary.’


The coordinator of the coalition, Ahmed Yehia, said the complaint calls to punish Mahdi and Amr under the law as examples, in order to preserve the image of Egypt’s 
January 25 Revolution.

Yehia said the coalition demands to accelerate case against the two, who are accused of inciting immorality, debauchery, and defamation of religion, which are all crimes mentioned in the Egyptian penal code.

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Waiting for Alia 

It is quite easy to see a woman naked. In fact, naked women are always only an internet search, an art gallery, a television show, or film away. The semi-naked, alluring female form is even more pervasive. These images stare at us from billboards, ...

CNN: Egyptian blogger Aliaa Elmahdy: Why I posed naked

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy has become a household name in the Middle East and sparked a global uproar after a friend posted a photo of her naked on Twitter.

The photo, which the 20-year-old former student first posted on herblog, shows her naked apart from a pair of thigh-high stockings and some red patent leather shoes.

It was later posted on Twitter with the hashtag#nudephotorevolutionary. The tweet was viewed over a million times, while Elmahdy's followers jumped from a few hundred to more than 14,000.

Her actions have received global media coverage and provoked outrage in Egypt, a conservative Muslim country where most women wear the veil. Many liberals fear that Elmahdy's actions will hurt their prospects in the parliamentary election next week.

I took the photo myself using a timer on my personal camera
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

Elmahdy describes herself as an atheist. She has been living for the past five months with her boyfriend, bloggerKareem Amer, who, in 2006 was sentenced to four years in a maximum security prison for criticizing Islam and defaming former president Hosni Mubarak.

Here she talks exclusively to CNN in Cairo about why she posed nude.

CNN: Why did you post a photo of yourself nude photo on Twitter, and why the red high heels and black stockings?

Elmahdy: After my photo was removed from Facebook, a male friend of mine asked me if he may post it on Twitter. I accepted because I am not shy of being a woman in a society where women are nothing but sex objects harassed on a daily basis by men who know nothing about sex or the importance of a woman.

The photo is an expression of my being and I see the human body as the best artistic representation of that. I took the photo myself using a timer on my personal camera. The powerful colors black and red inspire me.

CNN: Who is Aliaa Elmahdy inside the body portrayed in the nude photo?

Elmahdy: I like being different. I love life, art, photography and expressing my thoughts through writing more than anything. That is why I studied media and hope to take it further to the TV world too so I can expose the truth behind the lies we endure everyday in this world. I don't believe that we must have children only through marriage. It's all about love.

CNN: How have your Egyptian Muslim parents reacted? How do they feel about you living with your boyfriend unmarried?

Elmahdy: I last spoke to them 24 days back. They want to support me and get closer, especially after the photo was released, but they accuse Kareem of manipulating me. He has been my support system and has passed along their text messages to me. I dropped out of AUC (The American University in Cairo where she was a media student) months back after (my parents) attempted to control my life by threatening not to pay the fees.

CNN: The press has labeled you a revolutionary but you were not in Tahrir Square during the 18 days of the revolution in February this year. Is there a political element to you posing nude?

Most Egyptians are secretive about sex because they are brought up thinking sex is something bad and dirty
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

Elmahdy: I was never into politics. I first joined the protests on May 27th because I felt the need to participate and decided I might be able to change the future of Egypt and refused to remain silent. I made it clear that I was not part of April 6th Movement (an Egyptian political group that came to prominence during the revolution) after the rumors were spread by remnants of Mubarak's National Democratic Party who wanted to capitalize on the reaction to the photo.

What shocked me is April 6th's statement clarifying that Aliaa Magda Elmahdy is not part of their organization and how they don't accept "atheism." Where is the democracy and liberalism they preach to the world? They only feed what the public wants to hear for their political ambitions.

CNN: What do you think about the forced virginity testsperformed by the Egyptian military on more than a dozen girls arrested in Tahrir Square?

Elmahdy: I consider this rape. Those men in the military who conducted these tests should be punished for allowing this to happen without the consent of the girls in the first place. Instead, the girls walk around feeling the shame and most of them are forced to remain silent.

CNN: Do you practice safe sex in your sexual revolution?

Elmahdy: Most Egyptians are secretive about sex because they are brought up thinking sex is something bad and dirty and there is no mention of it in schools. Sex to the majority is simply a man using a woman with no communication between them and children are just part of an equation. To me, sex is an expression of respect, a passion for love that culminates into sex to please both sides.

I do practice safe sex but I don't take pills because I am against abortion. I enjoyed losing my virginity at the age of 18 with a man I loved who was 40 years older than me. Kareem Amer is the second man and the love of my life. The saying suits us: "Birds of the same feather flock together"

Many women wear the veil just to escape the harassment and be able to walk the streets
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

CNN: How do you see women in the "New Egypt" and will you leave the country if the ongoing revolution fails?

Elmahdy: I am not positive at all unless a social revolution erupts. Women under Islam will always be objects to use at home. The (sexism) against women in Egypt is unreal, but I am not going anywhere and will battle it 'til the end. Many women wear the veil just to escape the harassment and be able to walk the streets. I hate how society labels gays and lesbians as abnormal people. Different is not abnormal!

CNN: What are your future plans with Kareem and will you find it hard to deal with your new notoriety?

Elmahdy: I have discovered who my real friends are, and I have Kareem who loves me passionately. He works as a media monitor and I am currently looking for a job. I embrace the simple things in life and I am a vegetarian ... I am a believer of every word I say and I am willing to live in danger under the many threats I receive in order to obtain the real freedom all Egyptian are fighting and dying for daily.


 

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