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 her blog, shows her naked apart from a pair of thigh-high stockings and some red patent leather shoes.
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.
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?
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.
By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy