In much of the Middle East, modesty is the norm—if not the rule. Women in hijabs are a common sight on the streets of cities like Tehran, where, according to Iranian law, a woman’s life is worth half that of a man’s. Many have said the region lives under a “gender apartheid.” And some women have had enough.
Late last year, 20-year-old Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy sparked a firestorm when she posted a nude photo of herself online under her real name in protest against women’s oppression in Islamic society.
The post made waves both among Egyptians—many of whom were outraged by her behaviour—and among other feminist bloggers, who feared for her safety.
Now, a group of feminists has released a calendar in support of Elmahdy. The calendar, released to coincide with International Women’s Day, brings together photos of writers and activists from throughout the world posing nude. They say that baring their skin breaks taboos and rules imposed by Islamic law and right-wing extremism.
The calendar has prompted a group of exiled Iranians to post a video in support of the growing movement to YouTube, in which they too posed nude in protest of sexual oppression.
It has made waves even inside the Islamic Republic. Several members of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran—both men and women—stripped down and posted a nude photo of themselves covering their faces with signs bearing slogans such as “no to hijab” and “no to gender discrimination,” an act that puts them at risk of execution if they are identified.
But not everyone has jumped on board. In Iran, women’s liberation activist Azar Majedi has criticized the calendar, saying it is no better than a tabloid newspaper that uses nudity for profit.
Although the methods may be unorthodox, the nude activists seem to have turned the world’s attention to what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult battle for women’s rights in Islamic society.