An Egyptian female activist sparked an intense online debate over the limits of personal expression in art this week, following the discovery of nude photos the woman took and posted to her blog.
Aliaa Elmahdy, a 20-year-old college student and self-described “secular liberal feminist,” posted two nude photos of herself on her blog, “A Rebel’s Diary,” last month. The young revolutionary's photos were apparently discovered earlier this week by a Twitter user, who called them "brave."
In one of the pics, Elmahdy is standing with her right foot perched one the bottom rung of a wooden stool. She is wearing lacy, thigh-high black stockings, red slippers - and nothing else.
The second photo is a three-part collage of the first, with yellow strips censoring out her crotch, mouth and eyes.
“The yellow rectangles on my eyes, mouth and sex organ resemble the censoring of our knowledge, expression and sexuality,” Elmahdy wrote on her blog, according to the Daily Beast.
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Female nudity, especially in public, is taboo in Egypt. A majority of the women living in this conservative nation of mostly Sunni Muslims residents cover their hair with head scarves.
Of course, Elmahdy’s unprecedented blog posting has received quite a lot of attention - her site has received more than 1.6 million hits in just a few days.
But for liberal activists running in Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections, some of the attention may be unwanted.
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.
“Let's just hope Salafi sheikhs don't get word of this. They're gonna throw it all on liberals and seculars,” tweeted Ali Hagras, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.
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Other users on the social networking site Twitter have spent the week debating Elmahdy's decision to post naked photos in a conservative society like Egypt.
“I hope we all thought about it. Freedoms, gender equality, body & nudity, freedom of expression, values, principles #NudePhotoRevolutionary,” tweeted one user.
If you don't respect yourself. Posting a nude picture of yourself is not freedom of expression, it is distasteful. #NudePhotoRevolutionary
See more reaction from the Egyptian twitter-sphere here.
And of course, here’s the link to Elmahdy’s blog (which - warning - contains full-frontal nudity).