Aliaa Elmahdy – Is this Egypt’s new direction? Aliaa Elmahdy 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.
Aliaa 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.
“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.
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.”
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 and her boyfriend, 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.