Kuwaiti authorities recently arrested a Syrian man who sent nude images of his wife to a friend because he wanted to break a "black magic spell" he thought was cast on her. According to Al Rai newspaper, the arrest came after the wife discovered the photos on her husband's phone and reported him to the police. At first, the husband denied his wife's allegations, accusing her of being "delirious" and mentally unstable. However, investigators became even more suspicious about the defendant when a phone search showed he had deleted several images and texts off his mobile before being interrogated. When police questioned the husband's friend on the matter, he reaffirmed the wife's statement.
This Photographer's Bathhouse Nudes Are Challenging Perceptions of Arab Women
Arab man sent nude pics of wife to friend to rid her of 'spell'
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Photos revealing hidden histories of the Middle East
To those on the periphery of the culture, the idea of a group of Arab women allowing themselves to be photographed nude, in a hammam, or communal bath, in the Middle East seems unlikely. The stereotypical image of Arab women assumes they are devoutly practicing Muslims, wearing hijabs and long skirts and conducting themselves with religious modesty, exposing their bodies exclusively to their husbands, and perhaps to female relatives or friends behind the closed doors of a hammam. Would they allow themselves to be captured in such an environment by a boundary-pushing year-old American artist, for a gallery show? In the Western imagination, probably not. Later, Al-Arashi would estimate that only about half of them were Muslim.
A new online archive launched by the Arab Image Foundation offers new perspectives on the Middle East, revealing forgotten moments and untold stories, writes India Stoughton. From same-sex kisses and men in drag, to nude portraits and children posing with assault rifles, the Arab Image Foundation is replete with startling and sensationalist photographs of the Middle East. For more than 20 years, the foundation has preserved its archives, published books and organised exhibitions, but its collections have been difficult for the public to access.