Why Feminist Activists Defecated and Menstruated on the Islamic State Flag


Egyptian activist and blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdi uploaded a picture to her Facebook account this Saturday showing her and another unnamed activist shitting and menstruating on an Islamic State flag while naked. Elmahdi is seen facing the camera and fixing viewers with an unrelenting stare, her blood smeared vulva just inches above the stained flag. The other woman is turning her back to the viewers and wearing a hijab, while raising a middle finger. Two machines guns are laid out on the ground behind them.

The picture posted by the 23-year-old activist was on the same day retweeted by Inna Shevchenko, founder of the controversial feminist group FEMEN, which is known for its topless protests against prostitution and religious oppression of women. The FEMEN logo — two circles with a dividing line between them, intended to symbolize stylized naked breasts — is painted on the hijabi clad activist’s back, right above the letters IS. Today, Shevchenko confirmed in a statement to Paris Match that the action is indeed a concerted protest under the roof of FEMEN.

Shevchenko, a Ukrainian activist living in Paris, told Paris Match she considers it “hypocritical” to call the image violent as compared to the violent actions of the Islamic State.

“We are not afraid of being criticized for the way we responded,” she said. “We are not threatening to kill. We just wanted to say: This is how ideas are treated.”

Elmahdi, who has been living in Swedish exile since March 2012, is best known for posting a nude image of herself in her blog back in 2011 — intended to protest the rampant misogyny and sexism in post-Mubarak Egypt after the Arab Spring. The image shows her wearing nothing but stockings, red ballerina shoes, and a bow in her hair. It has caused an unprecedented scandal in Egypt.

In the weeks that followed Elmahdi, branded “The naked blogger,” has received a wave of international media attention as well as death threats and harsh criticism — both from religious conservatives and from secular leaning liberals in the country, who feared it would hurt their cause in the upcoming post-Mubarak elections.

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