Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Jackie Chamoun: #stripforjackie campaign sees Lebanese take their top off for Olympic skier

One of the leaked images of skier Jackie Chamoun that led to outcry in Lebanon
One of the leaked images of skier Jackie Chamoun that led to outcry in Lebanon

Lebanese people are stripping off in solidarity with Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun who has come under fire from her country’s sports minister for a series of risqué pictures of her that were leaked to the press.

A campaign called #stripforjackie has seen social media flooded with naked torsos in response to the outcry over the images of Chamoun, who is currently competing in Sochi.

The pictures were taken on the slopes of Lebanon’s most famous ski resort Faraya-Mzaar three years ago for an Austrian ski calendar.

In the final result, Chamoun's breasts are concealed by a strategically placed pair of skis but less subtle images taken during the photoshoot have surfaced on the internet and Lebanese TV over the last few days.

Following the release of the pictures, the Lebanese minister for sports and youth called on the Lebanese Olympic Committee to launch an investigation.

A campaign titled “I am not naked” saw a local photography studio invite Chamoun’s supporters to have their naked picture taken for free.

“A lot of people are actually doing it at home” says Tarek Mouakkad, the owner of the studio, who says he is merely helping out people who aren’t able to create their own portrait.

Despite the miniskirts in the capital’s nightclubs, Lebanon's countryside remains largely conservative.

Yet the country is well known for its scantily clad women and the image has been used to promote the country by the Ministry of Tourism as far back as 1971, when it placed a Lebanese woman in bikini in Playboy to lure potential holidaymakers.

Mouakkad is realistic about the limitations of the campaign, which he hopes will be a “stepping stone” to more initiatives to promote freedom of expression. “Four, five years ago we had a lot less censorship. This case, with the Olympic champion, is the final drop that has made it explode,” he says.

Besides addressing censorship, many are angry that politicians are focusing on “boobs instead of bombs.” Two booby-trapped cars were discovered in the country on Wednesday.

“We have more important things to worry about. What about the bombings, the abuse and murder of women, the rape” says Rhea Zachariou, 23, an unemployed teacher.

 Despite fearing for her future employment prospects, she says standing up for her beliefs and participating in the campaign felt liberating. “The moment you take off your bra you feel this is it, there are no inhibitions, it felt good” she said.

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