Cry for Freedom by a Nude Egyptian Blogger

“In a culture that believes the devil’s lure and the route to hell lie in the naked face and eyes of a woman, stark nudity could very well be a revolutionary cry and a suicidal choice.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Egyptian activist and blogger, Aliaa Maghda El-Mahdy

For me the news is what we see on the streets and not what we read in the morning papers or watch on the TV.

I believe that the street is the honest reflection to our economy, behavioral sociology, politics, faith, and sexuality, to our education, our sense of beauty and our respect for freedoms and human rights, or our lack of respect for them, for that matter.

If you want to figure out what the community you’re living in looks like, the street will be the mirror for you.

It is all there in the street, obvious as day light, staring us in the face, but perceived only by those who have the right eye, the eye that could behold what lies beneath the surface.

If you asked me what to look for, or specifically focus on while you’re on your street discovery, I would say (Cherchez la femme -look for the woman) .. but not in the criminal sense.

The status of women-their socially accepted code of dress, their participation in civil life and their ability to freely express themselves- is a decisive criterion in evaluating the modernity of any community or society.

Of all that I’ve read about the Egyptian revolution, I particularly found the speculative question “where is the role of the Egyptian woman in the revolution?” by Prof. Youssef Zidan, one of Egypt’s top scholars of history and comparative religion, profoundly significant.

One of the fears most political analysts, especially in the west, expressed when asked about the most likely scenario to be implemented in post-Mubarak Egypt was that the prospects for a secular and a true democratic governing system would be undermined if the Islamists were to be the ruling majority.

It took no Genius to come up with such a prophecy, as a matter of fact, the Islamist tide- and when I say Islamist I specifically mean fundamentalism and obscurantism- have been building up over the last 50 years or so in Egypt.

Historically speaking Egypt emerged from the Nineteenth century as a nation eager to embrace pluralism and liberalism while struggling to free itself from the long colonial era – the lyrics of the Egyptian national anthem in 1919 celebrated the Muslim, Christian and Jewish tributaries for Egypt citizenship.

Egypt feminist movement

Hoda Shaarawi & Safia Zaghlul, Egypt pioneer feminists.

The feminist movement emerged in Egypt as early as 1919 when the Egyptian women took to the streets and joined the anti-British protests. Leading the women’s rally was Hoda Shaarawi, a pioneer feminist and a political activist who advocated the rights of the Egyptian woman to education and free speech.

In 1919, Shaarawi and Safia Zaghlul helped organize the largest women’s anti-British demonstration. In defiance of British orders to disperse, the women remained still for three hours in the hot sun.

In 1922 Shaarawi made a decision to stop wearing her veil in public, this was the first public defiance of the restrictive tradition. In 1923 Shaarawi founded and became the first president of the Egyptian Feminist Union, after returning from the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Congress in Rome.

It is common knowledge now that the women’s liberation, worldwide that is, is intrinsically related to their socially accepted code of dress, and I don’t certainly mean that the more liberal a woman becomes the less clothes she needs to wear.

I’m simply referring to the paradox whereas modern men or rather men living in modern times, of all ethnicity and religious backgrounds, especially Muslims, have the right to wear the modern western outfits and even indulge in the latest fashions while women are denied that right simply because they are women.

Following the 1930s, women in Egypt began to leave the harem, take off their veils and participate in the society movement as equal to men in most of the civil rights and responsibilities without sacrificing the cultural and religious legacy of modesty and high virtues.

Doria Shafik

Doria Shafiq was one of the ladies who led the women’s liberation movement in Egypt in the early 1950s. As a result of her activities, Egyptian women now have the right to elect and nominate in the Egyptian constitution.

In February 1951, she led a demonstration, accompanied by 1500 Egyptian women, during which she broke into the Egyptian parliament and spoke to the council to consider the issues and demands of Egyptian women. After a week, the Council granted Egyptian women the right to vote and stand for parliament.

From the mid 1980s the Egyptian street began to witness women and more importantly the young girls starting to wear Hijab– the Saudi style of veil once again.

At the beginning it was not so popular, not all women and definitely a lot of the youngsters rejected the idea of covering up after decades of liberation and struggle to get where they were then.

Obscurantism sneaks in

But thanks to long years of exposure to the fundamentalist doctrine of Islam of the Arabian Peninsula, deluge of well financed hard-line wahhabi preachers reaching out to wider audience of simpletons through mass media and persuading them that wearing hijab is god’s favorite route to paradise and also due to years of political dictatorship the fundamentalist ideas began to appeal to the minds and hearts of Egyptians.

The temptation lies in the woman’s eyes.

While the majority of Muslim women currently wear Hijab in Egypt, the Salafists– ultraconservative Muslims- are now calling for the devout Muslim woman to wear Niqab, where all of her body should be covered up in some long and dark grab- for that would ensure that the woman would not cause any “ Fitna”-temptation- a naïve assumption that simultaneously gives the impression that Muslim males are some freak sex maniacs who are apt to get sexually excited and turn into wild rapists, on the mere looking at any naked part of the woman’s body be it her heels or hands.

Succumbing to this all-together radically ignorant doctrine, one of the Saudi sheikhs has lately come up with a fatwa- binding religious decree- that the temptation lies in the woman’s eyes and hence he called upon the Muslim women to even cover up their- Bette Davis- eyes.

Tables turning

Egypt revolution hijacked by Islamists

After the revolution of 25 January, which has been launched by a group of courageous secular youths the tables are being turned in the favor of Islamists.

And no matter how hard the liberal front try to hold back this fundamentalist tide they will not succeed, not under the current situation anyway. And no, I’m not being defeatist here, I’m only being realistic

This is not only about some well organized and resourceful group as in the case of the Muslim brothers and their newly-formed political party ironically dubbed “freedom and justice” or about the inherently violent and obscenely funded- by the wahhabis in Saudi Arabia- Salafist groups and their new party ludicrously called “The light”…

rather it is about the disturbed collective mindset of the Egyptian common people who after decades of dictatorship cloaked in secularism are now ready to support an Islamist government cunningly cloaked in democracy in the hope that it would be less brutal and corrupt.

Invisible Candidate and herded sheep

The female candidate’s photo in the Salafist electoral banner replaced by the party’s logo.

To know how those Brothers and Salafists stand on the hot issues of the freedom of expression and women’s equality, we only have to take a look at one of their electoral banners which displayed photos of 10 candidates, 9 bearded men and one woman.

The one woman candidate was an inevitable prop in this travesty of democracy, but since they believed that the face of the Muslim woman shouldn’t be exposed naked for everyone to watch they replaced their female candidate’s photo with the logo of the party (as if she didn’t exist)

In one of their latest rallies where they protested the alleged detention by the Egyptian Orthodox church of a Christian woman who, as the rumors went, had converted to Islam a group of women draped in back niqab joined the Salafist rally, but since they were not allowed to mingle with men, the sexual stimulation and temptation thing you know, they were encircled by a rope like a flock of sheep and herded by a man who held the leash/rope and dragged them all the way through the protest.

Secular Egyptian women rallying to demand their right to elect for parliament in 1950s (right) vs Salafists women protesting in niqab over the alleged kidnapping of converted christians while being herded like cattle by a man holding the leash in 2011. (left)

In the midst of all that surrealistic situation where most of the secular and educated youths who set this whole uprising in motion are now being hunted down and put behind bars by the military council and as the liberals are watching the revolution, they have been dreaming about for ages, being hijacked by the Islamists and some of the hidden hawks of the old regime one could imagine the frustration, the broken dreams, the tears and the hidden cries of all those once starry-eyed revolutionaries who occupied the Tahrir square for glorious and unforgettable 18 days.

Revolutionary nudity

Aliaa Mahdy in her full nude photo posted in her blog

But not everybody can live with a muted cry; there is always an exception to every rule, and as the precipitating forces on the socio-political scene have been so violent, unpredictable and flagrantly extreme so was the reaction of Aliaa Mahdi, a 20-years-old Egyptian college student who dared to post a photo of herself in full nude on her blog last week.

In a culture that believes that the devil’s lure and the route to hell lie in the naked face and eyes of a woman, stark nudity could very well be a revolutionary cry and a suicidal choice.

On her Facebook page Aliaa explained that she posted this nude picture to defend her freedom that is being hijacked by ultra-conservatism. She wrote that she was “echoing screams against a society of violence, racism, sexual obsession, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”

In her self-portrait she posted on her blog, A Rebel’s Diary (warning: X-rated), which has received almost 2 million page views till now, she faces the camera with absolutely defiant eyes wearing only a red ribbon in her hair, thigh-high tights, and red ballet shoes.

The same photo appears on her blog a second time, now with a yellow rectangle covering her crotch. “The yellow rectangles on my eyes, mouth and sex organ resemble the censoring of our knowledge, expression and sexuality,” she writes.

Aliaa’s unprecedented act shocked the moral vanity of the Egyptian society and somehow helped stoke conservative Islamist sentiments that many liberals fear will undermine their prospects in the country’s parliamentary election next week.

Her action not only raised eyebrows, but also questioned her sanity and morality. But the young rebel defended herself and her freedom of expression. “I have the right to live freely in any place,” She wrote on her blog. “I feel happy and self-satisfied when I feel that I’m really free.” Under the picture she wrote one word … “Revolution”

With Egypt now on the threshold of a new era, that could turn out to be a real democracy or a disguised theocracy or even a military fascism, one could not, or actually should not judge Aliaa’s nudity but I wonder if her daring statement, that leaps past the fringes of the society values into the taboo, is another step in Egypt’s feminist (R)evolution or is it the last chapter of the movement?

16 thoughts on “Cry for Freedom by a Nude Egyptian Blogger

  1. Muslims do need the sun or vitamin d pills (4000 iu/day) to produce smart kids. See: Un-retarding the Muslim brain at:
    However nudity is simply stupidity. Aliaa Maghda El-Mahdy has this urge to undress, she will feel fully appreciated in one of the strippers joint in USA. After a few years there she will have become part of the devilsmatrix ( Good luck Aliaa happy stripping.


  2. The west is dead but they do not know it. In 25 years there population will be halved. What good has its woman’s liberation done? are they having babies? No. They are liberated for 1 generation then they are gone.


  3. Coming from the west… If women covered up a little more… We would have the problems we have in the west. As times passes, the body of a woman nude or dressed is exploited to the extreme all for the dollar. Most woman don’t see that, because in turn they are making money.

    It is no wonder there are so many teen pregnancies and rapes in the west. What happen to respect and morals??? As a society in the west, we have moved so far from respecting ourselves and family to throwing the morals away we once knew all for the sake of a dollar bill, and too many people that cry freedom have been so willing to be brain washed through the media, bill boards, and clothing stores that they know nothing different.

    A good man comes where a woman respects herself and carries herself like a lady. If you doubt this, then, look at the number of divorces in the west where adultery has been involved, a man is beat by his wife or “live in,” and/or the woman is beat with the same measure…


  4. If anything I am not very religious and I care if you walk nude on street but I respect more women with decent cover and I am also much more attracted to covered women. If you are a woman and want a man’s respect and love then cover yourself. Have a traditional family where the man is the is the boss. Even in the West people respect modesty. Loose families are doomed to fail. AT age 70 all the sudden he comes out of closet or she fall in love with another women and the hell with the children. This is not typical but can happen to any one.


  5. you are incapable of democracy.
    unlike many nations who have embraced democracy after decades of struggle, you are simply unable to embrace it.
    in order to accept democracy, you will have to accept women’s rights, which is in direct contrast with sharia law.
    in short, you arabs need to look at israel to learn.
    instead of looking with hate and envy.
    80 million people in egypt and not 1 hi tech company, a disgrace !!
    but hating israel is oh so easy, right ?
    all your troubles ebb when you join each other in hatred of the only jewish state.
    no mirror in that direction…


    1. buddy… i am from the west… a woman, and i do not believe in woman’s liberation and never will… our children have suffered a huge price due to woman’s liberation…


    2. So to sum it up:
      your view of Democracy is based on accepting women’s rights, accepting Israel and the existence of 1 hi-tech firm?

      Would it be enough to accept Israel and having 1 hi tech firm without accepting women’s rights?
      Would it be enough by just accepting Israel with out accepting women’s rights, spare the cost of 1 hi-tech firm?


  6. Schulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 14, 20, 32, 33, 39

    A Jew may do to a non-Jewess what he can do. He may treat her as he treats a piece of meat.

    Hadarine, 20, B; Schulchan Aruch, Choszen Hamiszpat 348

    A Jew may violate but not marry a non-Jewish girl.

    Gad. Shas. 2:2

    A boy-goy after nine years and one day old, and a girl after three years and one day old, are considered filthy.

    Pereferkowicz, Talmud t.v., p. 11

    Raba stated: With reference to the Rabbinical statement that [legally] an Egyptian [Gentile] has no father, it must not be imagined that this is due to [the Egyptians’] excessive indulgence in carnal gratification, owing to which it is not known [who the father was], but that if this were known it is to be taken into consideration; but [the fact is] that even if this is known it is not taken into consideration…. Thus it may be inferred that the All Merciful declared their children to be legally fatherless, for [so indeed it is also] written, Whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.

    Yevamoth 98a
    [Trans.: A non-Jew is “legally fatherless,” regardless of whether or not the father is known. Gentile children are essentially asses and horses, i.e., animals.]

    [The daughters of the heathens] should be considered as in the state of niddah [separation?] from their cradle…

    Avodah Zarah 36b

    They decreed in connection with a heathen child that it should cause defilement by seminal emission so that an Israelite child should not become accustomed to commit pederasty with him…. It is therefore to be concluded that a heathen girl [communicates defilement] from the age of three years and one day, for inasmuch as she is then capable of the sexual act she likewise defiles by a flux. This is obvious!

    Avodah Zarah 36b-37a

    R. Joseph said: Come and hear! A maiden aged three years and a day may be acquired in marriage by coition [intercourse], and if her deceased husband’s brother cohabits with her, she becomes his. The penalty of adultery may be incurred through her; [if a niddah] she defiles him who has connection with her, so that he in turn defiles that upon which he lies, as a garment which has lain upon [a person afflicted with gonorrhoea].

    Sanhedrin 55b

    Rab said: Pederasty with a child below nine years of age is not deemed as pederasty with a child above that. Samuel said: Pederasty with a child below three years is not treated as with a child above that.24 (24) I.e., Rab makes nine years the minimum; but if one committed sodomy with a child of lesser age, no guilt is incurred. Samuel makes three the minimum.

    Sanhedrin 54b

    Raba said. It means this: When a grown-up man has intercourse with a little girl it is nothing, for when the girl is less than this [three years old], it is as if one puts the finger into the eye; but when a small boy has intercourse with a grown-up woman he makes her as ‘a girl who is injured by a piece of wood.’…

    Kethuboth 11b
    [This debate concerns whether or not someone is a virgin. Virginity is prized above all, such that it is believed that a girl under the age of three will regain her virginity, even if a man has had intercourse with her. (Fn. 7 says, in regard to putting “the finger into the eye”: “I.e., tears come to the eye again and again, so does virginity come back to the little girl under three years.”) Since virginity is prized above all, one could assume that this conclusion has allowed grown men to have sex with little girls with immunity. A grown-up woman is not deflowered by having sex with a small boy, however, since he is only like a “piece of wood.”]

    It was taught: R. Judah used to say, A man is bound to say the following three blessings daily: “[Blessed art thou…] who hast not made me a heathen,” “…. who hast not made me a woman”; and “… who hast not made me a brutish man.” R. Aha b. Jacob once overhead his son saying “[Blessed art thou…] who hast not made me a brutish man,” whereupon he said to him, “And this too!” Said the other, “Then what blessing should I say instead?” [He replied,]…h who hast not made me a slave.” And is not that the same as a woman? – a slave is more contemptible.


  7. As an American, I think we are probably the least qualified people on Earth to lecture people in other countries and societies on morality, freedom, democracy, or even to comment on the value of the ability of a young Egyptian activist to assert her freedom and independence by appearing nude online in a very conservative Muslim society. The depth of corruption and depravity in American society is horrifying. It taints and blights everything. Yet, on the surface, it remains a very moralistic, even prudish society. America used to be a Christian country, but now its true religion is hypocrisy and the love of money and power. It is now a society that lies to itself, to the world, and to God.

    Given the terrible state the world is in right now, I think this heroic young activist is fighting a losing battle. Muslim countries are under heavy pressure to become “modern” by fostering “freedom of expression” and “liberation” of women at the very moment when they are being attacked nearly everywhere militarily by countries which have all but abolished freedom of expression at home, and which invariably help to impose dictatorial regimes on them. This, of course, discredits such freedom in the eyes of Muslims and powerfully strengthens the position of culturally and politically reactionary forces in Muslim states, thus effectively reinforcing popular support for the dictatorial regimes the European and American “forces of freedom and democracy” have imposed on them! But, of course, I wish her well. I hope that a future dictatorial Egyptian regime doesn’t decide to make an example of her. She should probably, purely out of prudence, make plans to make a quick exit from the country.


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