News

Feminist Activists Bleed and Defecate on Islamic State Flag #NSFW

by Jillian Steinhauer on August 27, 2014

Detail of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and Femen's photo protesting the policies of the Islamic State

Detail of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and Femen’s photo protesting the policies of the Islamic State, scroll down for full image. (via Twitter/femeninna)

Egyptian feminist activist Aliaa Magda Elmahdy made a statement against the Islamic State (IS) this past weekend with the release of an explicit photograph on her Facebook page. The picture shows Elmahdy naked and menstruating on the flag of IS, while alongside her a woman dressed in a black hijab flicks off the camera and defecates on the flag too. The letters IS are painted on both women’s bodies. According to LiveLeak, “Arab media across the Middle East avoided publishing the photo, since the words ‘there is no God but Allah’ are printed on the desecrated flag.”

For the photo, Elmahdy was working in tandem with Femen, the controversial Ukrainian feminist group known for its nude and topless protests. Elmahdy linked up with the group in the wake of her first foray into public nudity, in 2011, when the then-20-year-old posted photos of herself wearing only stocking and red shoes on her blog. The pictures sparked a huge uproar in Egypt, and Elmahdy says she was charged by the state and briefly kidnapped because of them. She received political asylum in Sweden, where she continues to live. It was there that she met and participated in naked protests with members of Femen.

Elmahdy is not talking to the media about the new photo targeted at IS, but Vice discussed it with Inna Shevchenko, founder of Femen — whose logo, two circles with a vertical line between them, is also painted on one of the women in the IS photo. Shevchenko explains that the picture was a direct response to the video showing the murder of journalist James Foley: “With our photo message we propose our own ‘way of execution’ of Islamic State ideas,” she said. “Our caption to the photo reads: ‘Animals, our execution of your ideas looks like that! Watch it well! We don’t demand ransoms, we don’t threaten you with new killings, we just SHIT ON YOU, ISIS!'”

Shevchenko continues:

With the picture we want to criticize the killings, rapes, and public executions by Islamic fascists, who are breaking news. This is what the Islamic State wants. They want the world to obey their ideas. Spreading their video messages of executions and sharing their speeches, we do a good job for them, we serve the Islamic State. Instead we should spread our message to them. Enough of tolerance! Don’t be scared to offend. Let’s hit them back with our answers, instead of giving them more space. The world is in fear, exactly as the Islamic State wants. We call not to fear them, but to resist them.

Although she’s not speaking to the press, Elmahdy continues to post on her blog, A Rebel’s Diary, and has been consistently tweeting and posting on Facebook the dizzying number of death and other threats she’s received in response to the photo.

In other bloody feminist protest news, a Belgian activist group called the Liliths dumped cans of red liquid, representing blood, on the floor of a terminal at Liège airport to protest the American arms passing through on their way to Israel:

Liege-LilithsIt’s interesting to think about the differences between the two: the Liliths’ protest falls under the umbrella of more traditional action, with striking documentation that can circulate around the internet and generate attention, whereas the substance of Elmahdy and Femen’s entire protest is the photo — not quite art, not quite meme, something that harnesses the power of both to get people talking. The picture’s also a reminder that, whether or not you think art can still shock, images certainly can.

The full photo

The full photo

h/t Reason.com

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  • alana wyst

    I love this photo I have just seen it. The artists in the airport most certainly will not die but Shevchenko and Almady have had countless death threats for their activism and are some of the bravest people on the planet. I can’t overstate my admiration for the two activists and for people like Maryam Namazie who by sheer force of will are changing the world. I have never seen better examples of ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ because their incredibly heroic and life-risking protests are so far out of bounds that they embolden many others to take more conservative risks that they otherwise would not. They are pushing the boundaries out so far that the outrageous yesterday seems mundane today. Brilliant.

    • John Atticus

      I’ve been asking this question for years an no one has bothered to answer it for me, maybe you can do so:

      What is one positive change which has occurred due to Femen’s efforts? As in, Femen protested this certain issue, demanded a certain response, and that response happened?

      I can’t find a single instance of something like this happening, and no one can cite one for me.

      What seems to happen is: Femen protests issue, Femen’s protest gets coverage in the media, and no laws or policies get changed, and nothing on the ground changes.

      There are many women’s groups that actually get things done, and many women doing things which directly deal with many of these problems (for this issue, I’d nominate the Kurdish women serving in the Kurdish Peshmurga forces who are literally fighting ISIS on the battlefield).

      It makes no sense to give so much attention to Femen and NOTHING to other women’s groups that actually get things done.

      The only explanation is that people think that bearing your boobs is somehow more admirable than getting a discriminatory law changed.

      • Julius Granström

        What is one positive change which has occurred due to art? I think it’s positive thing itself because it’s interesting. And effects on culture are fast and long time. Of course you can’t destroy islamist state or islamist in general with one picture in one day, maeby with millions of pictures in hundred years.

        • John Atticus

          What is one positive change which has occurred due to art?

          Femen aren’t artists, they’re activists, they call themselves activists. They may incorporate some artistic expression into their protests, but they are primarily motivated (so they say) by social issues and not artistic concerns.

          So I think it’s totally fair to ask what they’ve accomplished so far. And again you’re another supporter who can’t seem to provide any accomplishments.

          Of course you can’t destroy islamist state or islamist in general with one picture in one day,

          But have they accomplished ANYTHING?

          They’ve been around for what? Nearly 10 years with nothing to show for it?

          It’s time to start asking if there are better groups to pay attention to.

          Why has almost no one heard of the Kurdish women’s brigades that are actually fighting ISIS on the ground in combat in Iraq?

          Why are we giving them no attention but writing articles about Femen burning a flag on the internet in the safety of their French apartment?

          Because Femen shows us their breasts, and that’s why people pay attention to them. The Kurdish women don’t take their tops off and thus no one cares.

          This is due to misogynistic sexism, it’s still about the male gaze.

  • LD

    So is (one) subtext here that menstrual blood is somehow disgusting or on par with feces? Is there a cultural aspect I am missing?

  • edie everette

    This totally rocks. Thanks Femen for making decisions out of love vs. fear.

  • stroudart

    Worried for their safety..

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