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Egyptian blogger Aliaa Elmahdy: Why I posed naked

By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy for CNN
November 20, 2011 -- Updated 0326 GMT (1126 HKT)
A crop of the nude photo of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy posted on Twitter and on her blog.
A crop of the nude photo of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy posted on Twitter and on her blog.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN Exclusive: Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy tells CNN why she posed naked
  • Elmadhy says she posed naked because she is not afraid of being a woman despite harassment in Egypt
  • She says her Muslim parents want to support her; her father always hated the way she dressed
  • Elmadhy: I am a believer of every word I say and I am willing to live in danger under the many threats I receive

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.

It was later posted on Twitter with the hashtag #nudephotorevolutionary. The tweet was viewed over a million times, while Elmahdy's followers jumped from a few hundred to more than 14,000.

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.

I took the photo myself using a timer on my personal camera
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

Elmahdy describes herself as an atheist. She has been living for the past five months with her boyfriend, blogger Kareem 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?

Most Egyptians are secretive about sex because they are brought up thinking sex is something bad and dirty
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

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.

CNN: What do you think about the forced virginity tests performed by the Egyptian military on more than a dozen girls arrested in Tahrir Square?

Elmahdy: I consider this rape. Those men in the military who conducted these tests should be punished for allowing this to happen without the consent of the girls in the first place. Instead, the girls walk around feeling the shame and most of them are forced to remain silent.

CNN: Do you practice safe sex in your sexual revolution?

Elmahdy: Most Egyptians are secretive about sex because they are brought up thinking sex is something bad and dirty and there is no mention of it in schools. Sex to the majority is simply a man using a woman with no communication between them and children are just part of an equation. To me, sex is an expression of respect, a passion for love that culminates into sex to please both sides.

I do practice safe sex but I don't take pills because I am against abortion. I enjoyed losing my virginity at the age of 18 with a man I loved who was 40 years older than me. Kareem Amer is the second man and the love of my life. The saying suits us: "Birds of the same feather flock together"

Many women wear the veil just to escape the harassment and be able to walk the streets
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

CNN: How do you see women in the "New Egypt" and will you leave the country if the ongoing revolution fails?

Elmahdy: I am not positive at all unless a social revolution erupts. Women under Islam will always be objects to use at home. The (sexism) against women in Egypt is unreal, but I am not going anywhere and will battle it 'til the end. Many women wear the veil just to escape the harassment and be able to walk the streets. I hate how society labels gays and lesbians as abnormal people. Different is not abnormal!

CNN: What are your future plans with Kareem and will you find it hard to deal with your new notoriety?

Elmahdy: I have discovered who my real friends are, and I have Kareem who loves me passionately. He works as a media monitor and I am currently looking for a job. I embrace the simple things in life and I am a vegetarian ... I am a believer of every word I say and I am willing to live in danger under the many threats I receive in order to obtain the real freedom all Egyptian are fighting and dying for daily.

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