Lebanese men and women are stripping down for photos in support of skier and Olympian Jackie Chamoun, whose own semi-nude pictures launched threats of a government investigation earlier this week.
Several media outlets in Lebanon published daring photos and videos of Chamoun on Monday from a photo shoot for an Austrian ski calendar three years ago. The shoot sparked a series of condemnations from Lebanese sports officials; Minister of Youth and Sports Faisal Karami called for an investigation by the country's Olympic Committee, which then demanded an investigation by the Lebanese Ski Federation.
Chamoun, currently competing for Lebanon at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, apologized in a Facebook post on Tuesday. She said that the photos were not shown in the ski calendar and were not intended to be published.
"The video and photos that you are now seeing are part of the making off [sic], the preparation, it wasn’t supposed to go public," she wrote. "Anyways, I want to apologize to all of you, I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture."
But many Lebanese, particularly those in cosmopolitan Beirut, seemed to disagree. After Karami called for an investigation, they flooded social media platforms with their own semi-nude photos using the hashtag #StripForJackie, both supporting the skier and voicing their criticisms of Lebanese society.
Many took aim at what they say are skewed priorities in the Lebanese government and media, which they believe should be focused on other problems. "Some women are beaten or killed, others are raped, and the media shifts their attention to a confident talented beautiful woman who represents her country at the Olympic games," Cynthia-Maria Aramouni wrote on Facebook, presumably referring to schoolteacher Manal al-Assi, who was allegedly beaten to death last week by her husband.
Aramouni helped launch a campaign this week called "I Am Not Naked," in which people hoping to support Chamoun took almost-in-the-buff portraits at a photo studio near Beirut on Wednesday.
Others joined in to support freedom of expression, saying that women should be allowed to display their bodies however they see fit:
And one Twitter user simply gave Chamoun tongue-in-cheek praise for her public relations value:
It wasn't just people who got scantily clad. Several major Lebanese brands also launched their own Chamoun-themed ads, showing beer bottles stripped of their labels and nuts racily depicted without their shells.
Despite Karami's anger over the photos, the Lebanese Olympic Committee said that it will not take any action against Chamoun, who will compete in the women's slalom skiing event next week. And although Chamoun apologized for the uproar, she said there was nothing wrong with the photoshoot itself.
“I really enjoyed it and I don’t regret it," she said in an interview with NBC last month. "I like these photos."
This video is NSFW: