An Egyptian blogger posted nude pictures of herself, creating a flashpoint of controversy involving individual rights, gender, religion and politics weeks before parliamentary elections.
As first reported by the Associated Press, earlier this week Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, a 20-year-old university student with a history of fighting limits on free expression, posted photos of herself wearing only stockings and red shoes. She called the photos “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”
Her blog’s counter showed it had received 1.7 million hits.
Elmahdy has been criticized not just by conservatives but also by liberals wary of losing votes to Islamist parties in Nov. 28 elections, the first since a February uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the report said.
Most of Egypt’s majority Muslim women wear headscarves, and those who don’t rarely show their arms or legs in public.
“This hurts the entire secular current in front of those calling themselves the people of virtue,” said Sayyed el-Qimni, a prominent secularist, as quoted by the AP. He was referring to Islamist hard-liners, known in Egypt as Salafis, whose campaigns have said liberals would corrupt Egypt’s morals, the AP said.
Elmahdy’s Facebook page had posts for and against her. She had posted a poll asking, “Do you agree with Aliaa Magda Elmahdy?” There were 662 “No” votes and 261 “Yes” votes.
Elmahdy did not respond to attempts by ABC News to contact her.
The April 6 movement, a group of young activists involved in the February uprising, rejected assertions posted online that Elmahdy was a member, the AP said.
“This is yet another attempt by the National Security (agency) and the remnants of the old regime to smear us,” an April 6 statement on Tuesday said, Daily News Egypt reported, adding the movement said Elmahdy publicly denied membership.
The paper said Elmahdy’s blog said, “Try the nude models who worked in art faculties in the 1970s, hide art books and destroy nude artifacts.”
Her ironic suggestion actually reflects recent acts by Salafis, who, the AP reported, covered a public statue of mermaids in Alexandria at an election rally.
Daily News Egypt said some online commenters angrily contrasted the attention paid to Elmahdy’s photos with the “apathy” surrounding forced virginity checks by soldiers on detained women, which the military has confirmed.