Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

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Aliaa Magda Elmahdy
Women in the revolution.jpg
Stencil graffiti depicting Elmahdy, in the form of the nude blog photo of herself. Its text also refers to the case of Samira Ibrahim.[1]
Born (1991-11-16) 16 November 1991 (age 31)
Alma materAmerican University of Cairo

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy (Egyptian Arabic: علياء ماجدة المهدي, IPA: [ʕælˈjæːʔ ˈmæɡdæ (ʔe)lˈmæhdi, ˈʕæljæ-]; born 16 November 1991) is an Egyptian internet activist and women's rights advocate. She became known for publishing a nude photo on her Blogspot page,[2] which she described on Facebook as "screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy".[3] Since then she became a subject of several death threats.[4] Elmahdy describes herself as a "secular, liberal, feminist, vegetarian, individualist Egyptian" and has identified as an atheist since turning 16.[5][6]


Nude photo[edit]

External video
video icon Aliaa Elmahdy - Dateline - SBS[7]

In 2011 Elmahdy and another activist, Kareem Amer, were stopped for walking in a public park, with their arms over each other's shoulders (a public display of affection) and kissing, then taken to the park's security office, where they debated with managers of a public park who expelled them, and later posted mobile video footage.

Elmahdy posted the nude photo on 23 October 2011 and according to her tweet, took the photo herself in the "parent's home months before" she met Amer.[8][9]


Israeli women declaring solidarity with Elmahdy

Elmahdy's blog received over 2 million hits, with a number of insults. Pages for both support and protest against Elmahdy's action have been opened on Facebook.[10] Fearing of becoming tainted in the eyes of Islamic conservatives, Egyptian liberals distanced themselves from Elmahdy.[11][10] The 6 April Youth Movement issued a statement denying claims that Elmahdy is a member of the group.[10]

A case, filed by Islamic law graduates, accused Elmahdy and Amer of "violating morals, inciting indecency and insulting Islam".[12] False rumors about her beating on the Tahrir Square and death have been spread since then.[13]

Egyptian expatriates, Western-based Arab journalists[14] and representatives of American art community[15] have expressed their support. Iranian-born activist Maryam Namazie defined Elmahdy's action as "a scream against Islamism" and "the ultimate act of rebellion".[14] According to actress Amanda Banoub, Elmahdy "displayed genuine purity and modesty without a single layer of clothing".[14] Recalling the virginity tests carried out by the military to women in Tahrir Square, Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy noted that Elmahdy "is the Molotov cocktail thrown at the Mubaraks in our heads – the dictators of our mind – which insists that revolutions cannot succeed without a tidal wave of cultural changes that upend misogyny and sexual hypocrisy".[14]

About forty Israeli women gathered via Facebook to "show support in a non-violent and legitimate way for a woman who is just like us – young, ambitious, full of dreams and evidently has a developed sense of humor". The participants were photographed behind a sign saying "love without limits" and "Homage to Aliaa Elmahdi. Sisters in Israel".[16]

Flight to Sweden[edit]

Continuing the photographic theme of her protest, Elmahdy has subsequently called for men to submit images of themselves wearing veils "in an attempt to create awareness over hypocritical attitudes," and requested women "who wish to remove their veils to send her photographs of their faces, to be published online."[17]

In 2012, Elmahdy sought political asylum in Sweden for fear of being jailed, after being kidnapped and receiving death threats.[18] In December 2012, Elmahdy participated in a public nude protest outside the Egyptian embassy in Stockholm, together with Inna Shevchenko and another FEMEN member. The three naked activists protested against the "sharia-dictatorial" proposed Egyptian Constitution, drafted by Mohamed Morsi's government being voted on in a referendum in those days. Elmahdy had painted "Sharia is not a constitution" in red across her chest and stomach while holding an Egyptian flag.[18]

Maryam Namazie interviews Aliaa and Amina Tyler (8 March 2014).

In July 2013 she was interviewed by Svenska Dagbladet where she stated that during her asylum process, the Swedish Migration Agency received several letters with continued death threats directed towards her.[19] She expressed that she was able to wear trousers and a tank top while walking the streets without fearing being verbally or physically harassed, unlike in Egypt.[19] When asked to comment on Islamic organisations claiming that her campaigning reduces the freedom of Muslim women to wear the veil, she responded that she has never seen a man exercise the freedom to wear a veil.[19] In the interview she expresses doubt towards liberal supporters and stated her belief that many men who claim to oppose sexual harassment join campaign organisations simply to get laid.[19]

In 2013, Elmahdy and two other Femen activists staged a protest in Stockholm mosque against Sharia law and the oppression of women. They were arrested by police for disturbing public order.[20]

New nude protests[edit]

During International Women's Day on 8 March 2014, Elmahdy and seven other Arab and Iranian women, including Maryam Namazie and Amina Tyler, protested naked for women's rights at the Louvre Pyramid, chanting slogans in French in favour of freedom, equality and secularism (liberté, égalité et laïcité).[21][22][23]

In August 2014, she released a photo of herself menstruating on the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wearing only shoes, while another woman defecated on it. Media in Islamic countries did not publish the photo, as the flag of ISIL features the Muslim declaration of faith.[24]


  1. ^ jsuzdak. "this is not graffiti".
  2. ^ "مذكرات ثائرة". Aliaa Magda. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Egypt activist posts herself nude, sparks outrage". Ynetnews. 17 November 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  4. ^ Amrutha Gayathri (21 November 2011). "Has Aliaa Magda Elmahdy's Nude Photography Hurt the Cause of Egypt's Liberals?". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  5. ^ Sarah Park (17 November 2011). "Egyptian Nude Blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy Draws Condemnation [PHOTOS]". International Business Times. Retrieved 20 November 2011.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "New Pictures of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, the Nude Blogger". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 23 January 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Nude Blogger: In Pictures". International Business Times. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  9. ^ "Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Nude Blogger". International Business Times. Retrieved 29 November 2015. I took my nude photo myself in my parent's home months before I met @Kareemamer and I'm atheist since I was 16"
  10. ^ a b c "Egyptian feminist's blog received 2.5 million hits with her full frontal nude shot". Colombo Telegraph. 18 November 2011. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  11. ^ Abdelmoez, Joel W. (2021), Rosenberg, Tiina; D'Urso, Sandra; Winget, Anna Renée (eds.), "Deviants, Queers, or Scissoring Sisters of Men?: Translating and Locating Queer and Trans Feminisms in the Contemporary Arabic-Speaking World", The Palgrave Handbook of Queer and Trans Feminisms in Contemporary Performance, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 283–301, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-69555-2_16, ISBN 978-3-030-69554-5, S2CID 240561329, retrieved 22 July 2022
  12. ^ "Legal action taken against Egypt "nude revolutionary" activist". Bikyamasr. 17 November 2011. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  13. ^ Gianluca Mezzofiore (1 December 2011). "Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egypt's Nude Blogger, Hiding in Fear for Her Life". International Business Times. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  14. ^ a b c d Gianluca Mezzofiore (18 November 2011). "Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Nude Blogger, Gains Support from Egyptian Diaspora". International Business Times. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  15. ^ Ankita Mehta (19 November 2011). "Aliaa Magda Elmahdy: American Art Community Finds 'Beauty' in Egyptian Activist Photo". International Business Times. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  16. ^ Roi Kais (20 November 2011). "Israelis strip in support of Egypt blogger". Ynetnews. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  17. ^ Gayathri, Amrutha (26 December 2011). "Egypt's Nude Revolutionary Aliaa Elmahdy Asks Women to Publish Photographs without Veils". International Business Times. United Kingdom: Ibtimes Company. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  18. ^ a b Amira Asad (15 February 2013). "The Egyptian Feminist Who Was Kidnapped for Posing Nude". Vice.
  19. ^ a b c d Wadendal, Ia. "Egypten genomsyrat av kvinnohat". (in Swedish). Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  20. ^ "Femen-ister nakendemonstrerade i Stockholms moské". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  21. ^ Waleed Al-Husseini (10 March 2014). "Nude dancing in Louvre Museum Square: Proud "Arab" women atheists? | Adonis Diaries". Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Oben-ohne-Protest vor dem Louvre". Rheinische Post. 8 March 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  23. ^ Maryam Namazie, Fariborz Pooya & Bahram Soroush (1 May 2014). "It is my body, 30 Apr 2014". Nano Golesorkh. Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Egypt feminist defecates on IS flag in the nude". The Times of Israel. 24 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.

External links[edit]