While Mahdy’s act has been hashtagged (#NudePhotoRevolutionary) and her name tweeted and Facebooked endlessly, others did not receive such attention. Samira Ibrahim, the only one of the women subjected to „virginity tests“ who is taking the military to court for sexual assault, has neither a dedicated hashtag nor notoriety. Another woman, Salwa el-Husseini, was the first to reveal what the military did to them, but news reports have said she can’t raise a lawsuit because she doesn’t have identification papers.
Not only did el-Husseini speak out, she courageously agreed to be filmed at a session of testimonies on military abuses. Again, hardly anyone knows her name, her recorded testimony isn’t racking up page views, and she was called a liar and vilified for speaking out. Both women have vehemently maintained they were virgins.
If „good girls“ in headscarves who kept their legs together only to be violated by the military speak out and no one listens, what’s the message being sent? When the military justified its violations by saying „those girls aren’t like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square“, what’s the message?
Some in the liberal camp have accused Mahdy of „harming“ the revolution by allegedly confirming the stereotypes of revolutionaries that its opponents hold. Shame on them! Why allow those opponents to set the agenda for „good“ and „bad“. Since when do revolutions allow their conservative opponents to set the agenda?
When Mohammed Bouazizi, fed up with humiliation, repression and poverty, set himself on fire in Tunisia last January, essentially taking state abuse to its logical end, he ignited the revolutionary imagination of the Middle East and north Africa. Aliaa Mahdy, fed up with hypocrisy and sexual repression, undressed. She 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.
In einem Interview mit CNN macht Elmahdy den Hintergrund ihrer Aktion deutlich:
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“
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.