Nude Iranian movie star ignites firestorm
Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani's photo has spurred thousands of reactions on Facebook.
January 20th, 2012
04:03 PM ET

Nude Iranian movie star ignites firestorm

A photo and video of a famous Iranian actress baring her breasts have gone viral this week, igniting a fiery debate among Iranians.

Golshifteh Farahani appears topless, cupping her breasts, in a photo in the French magazine Madame Le Figaro. Also, a video apparently made by a French film academy, features the actress looking directly into a camera as she disrobes. She stands with her breasts uncovered. Soon after the images hit the Web, reaction was swift inside Iran, where Farahani gained fame in state-sponsored movies that forbid the mere touching of hands.

"The fate of an actress, who left her own country and joined Hollywood, has been nothing but immorality," the semi-official Fars News Agency wrote this week. "The actress who once played the role of caring and decent mothers of Iran has now auctioned off her modesty and honor in front of the Western cameras."

Farahani reportedly moved to France shortly after making history in the Iranian film industry by being the first Iranian to star in a Western film. In 2008, she played a nurse in "Body of Lies" with Leonardo DiCaprio.

It's unclear if the actress currently lives in France. Her agency in Paris declined a CNN interview request as Facebook, Twitter and blogs lit up with incendiary remarks about her. Some say Farahani has betrayed Islam and Iran for revealing her body. Other posters are supportive. They cheer her boldness and defend her right to self-expression.

Several Facebook pages have popped up in recent days with notes encouraging visitors to re-post the photo and video. A wall post Thursday appeared on a Facebook page that appears to belong to the actress. The message, carrying Farahani's name, says, "We have to open our mind!!"

Among other comments on Facebook:

"She is really brave, and I am proud of her. She shows what she believes in and it has nothing to do with others."

"Along with me and all my friends, we are really proud of you."

"I'm ashamed to call you an Iranian."

"Good for you Golshifteh dear! For once an Iranian with guts has come out to show we are just like anyone else in this world. You can model and do whatever you like, just like every woman from Los Angeles to Tokyo."

CNN reached Iranians inside the country Thursday night.

None wanted their last name published, saying they feared government reprisal for speaking to Western media. Yasmin, a 22-year-old student from Tehran, called Farahani "irresponsible" for posing nude.

"What did she think? She could pose topless in Paris, and then come back to Tehran, cover up again, and everything will be fine?" Yasmin said. "She should have thought about that before she did it. I understand she is an actress and artist, but she also has an Iranian passport."

Daroush, a 32-year-old English teacher in Shiraz, said he suspects the photo and video were purely publicity stunts to further Farahani's film career. "As an Iranian inside Iran, I knew who Golshifteh Farahani was, but did Americans or Brits?" he asked. "Probably not, but now they know. Smart woman."

Fereshteh, a 56-year-old retired schoolteacher in Tehran, is pleased to see the actress breaking a taboo, even if "her actions are against Iranian culture." Amin, a 34-year-old Web designer in Shiraz, said he didn't understand what all the fuss is about.

"Women in Hollywood pose like this daily," he said. "Why should an Iranian be treated differently? Because we are Muslims? There are Muslims all over the world who are models, actresses, artists that pose like this."

Mohammed, a 40-year-old engineer who lives in the city of Isfahan, said the actress "should be ashamed of herself."

He also said he felt actors and actresses have a tough time working in Iran, and Farahani posing nude will only make their jobs more difficult.

Mary Apick agrees. Three decades ago, Apick was a huge movie star in Iran, winning a best actress award for her role in an Iranian film at the Moscow Film Festival. She said performers in Iran will likely feel more pressure to adhere to the regime's notion of strict Islamic code in both their performances on screen and their personal life.

"They will be scrutinized more, no doubt," she said.

On Thursday, Apick watched the video of Farahani while CNN.com interviewed her. "I cannot believe what I'm seeing," she said. "She can never go back to Iran. No way. No way on Earth. Oh, I empathize with this beautiful young actress. No one has ever done anything like this. This is truly the bravest, boldest thing I've ever seen."

Apick lives in the United States, and has forged a successful career as a playwright, actress and activist in the West. She's lauded for writing and starring in the play "Beneath the Veil," which interweaves stories of women struggling for their rights.

"It was impossible to be an actress in Iran when I was there, and it's not gotten easier. It's become harder. There is no honest art, so there is no art. The regime has no interest in women, (especially not) strong women characters in movies," she said.

To get a film made and released in Iran, she said, a filmmaker must first shoot and produce the piece. Funding is up to them. They are required to present the finished product to Iranian authorities who view it and censor it if they feel it steps outside Islamic code. Government authorities then decide whether to issue a permit for the film's release. No permit, no movie.

Mehdi Semati, a media professor at Northern Illinois University who has written extensively about Iranian films, has been monitoring Internet chatter and listening to his Iranian students lively discussions the photo and video. They are split, mirroring comments online, he said.

He has been particularly surprised by the reaction of one student who subscribes to a rather hard-line pro-regime viewpoint. The student wasn't as harsh as Semati expected him to be. "I could tell it really made him think," he said.

"It almost doesn't matter what (Farahani's) intent was," the professor said. "Farahani posing this way shows that even Iran's highly proscribed, controlled filmmaking industry does not have total control, even over an icon of their own making."

Even more significantly, he added, it demonstrates that the Iranian regime cannot prevent anyone with access to the Web from judging for themselves.

Saskya Vandoorne, Anna Prichard and Niki Cook contributed to this report.

soundoff (1,071 Responses)
  1. fajr

    I wsh she lives a long life and she poses naked at age 80 and preach womens freedom

    January 21, 2012 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      If she were preaching women's freedom, she'd have gone nude in the streets. Let's face it, as much fun it is to watch her give a brain aneurysm to the mullahs, we all know the reason women go nude for magazines is for the green, not some lofty idealism.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Marion

      Well I wish her a long life as well and even preaches freedom for woman but I'd rather she get as much of the posing naked in now rather than 80

      January 21, 2012 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      I honor her because she defied religious oppression, because she furthered women's rights, and because she's hot.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. Devon

    I hope she can stay alive....not the smartest thing to do considering what followerès of Islam will want to do to her if they ever catch her alive....

    January 21, 2012 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      How smart is it to live timidly?

      January 21, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. cvf

    Iran has no nudity, or gay people.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • power4things

      at least not that they admit to

      January 21, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Guidance

    Every soul will taste death and will reurn to your Creator one day then you will be accounted for your all actions.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • me138

      blah blah blah

      January 21, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • adrifter

      Don't you believe God created woman? So what's the problem?

      January 21, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Will

    In case anybody doubted that muslims are all secretly queeer.

    Iranian women – if you want a real man, come to USA. We'll show you what men who appreciate beautiful women look like, and please you in ways that Iranian "men" are incapible of.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. User

    Sometimes I think that only a handful of the people in the world are sane.

    Here's what I tell those Islamic men who lust control over the women of our country we have spent the last decades trying to make equals in our society: Come at us – you can't do a thing. Stop filling your desires with empty statements, you aren't fooling anyone but your-self. Any self-respecting human being would die before they submit their self to you or your broken, hypocritical methods of thinking.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. panzerduck

    I love BOOBS !!!

    January 21, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Phil

    There are some really goofy religions in the world - even over the top fanatics (westboro baptist church members)... But iSlam takes the cake.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. rez

    To hell with damn Islam. This Bloody religion has ruined Iran for the past 1400 years. I'm ashamed that my country is being associated with Islam
    As for Golshifteh, all the power to her. We need more people with her balls.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      You mean boobs?

      January 21, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. John Doe

    Quit all the hype and find better things to do. H0m0 Sapiens are born in birthday suits and like all other animals were naked creatures. Especially if ur into the b0ll shy1t Jewish Mythology bed time stories-Judaism,Christianity,Islam. Eurasian garbage presented as though they were universal constants.Supremacy plagued b1gots hypocr1tes and dev1ls. Persians are simply extensions of the Eurasian BS in general. Clothes are an imaginary invention. All you simply need to do is fly to Bahrain and observe the sheer hypocr1sy over weekends before returning to Mecca after getting boozed and s2xed. Clubs in Bahrain actually issue "Riyadh" as pocket change. U think that stuff gets to those bars and brothe1s by co-incidence......cut the nonsense look for better things to do....

    January 21, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. uhohforthisho

    whats the over/under that the zealots over there try to stone this girl to death?

    January 21, 2012 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. clinky

    We're very puritanical ourselves. Only some of the "arty" actresses pose this way for a few fleeting seconds in American movies. If you never take your clothes off in front of the camera on principle, you're looked at as a "good girl." How corny is that?

    January 21, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  13. uhohforthisho

    yes america is very puritanical, which is why all of the most popular actresses and pop stars in america are so classy and never, ever pose in a provocative manner...

    January 21, 2012 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      If they want to, that's their choice. Who are they hurting? You certainly don't have to kill them. Btw, I've read the Koran, and I have NO idea why a woman would want to partake. Forced much?

      January 21, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • clinky

      Provocative dress is one thing, bared is another. There is still an idea in the West that if you are clothed, then you are decent. For practically all American movie actresses, taking it off for the camera is regarded as shameless and offending the audience. Somebody always says children might be watching. Even the few actresses who expose their body are expected to follow a narrow path of options, to avoid receiving a dirty epithet. We're not so evolved in America about this topic of staying clothed as we like to think.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Johnny Orlando

    What BS..you can't even see anything. What a rip off

    January 21, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. RMV

    When I was in university (a few decades ago now, admittedly), there were quite a few Persian women attending as well. They were the most beautiful, smart and desired women on campus. Iranian men are cowards for fearing their women's beauty and power. Religion poisons and perverts everything.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      I agree. Poor girls.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • mark

      yes, lots of them are beautiful. what great irony that they are condemned by themselves or not by the greatest lie in history, which is islam. islam didn't even exist when jesus lived and died for another 600 years and jesus was as he said himself a final prophet and forewarned about those that will come later and mislead masses! clear enough? apparently not.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Dear Mark, I'm sure you come from a good place... but I really think Jesus was just a story. Nobody wrote about him when he was "alive" nobody drew him, nobody made a statue, people don't even know what skin color he was (likely not white). Yet, we know what Caesar looks like, even many poets and scientists (none performing ANY miracles). Many of the stories are exactly the same as the Krishna religion, which is 7000 years older. So, there really is no merit to using Jesus or the bible as a basis for anything.

      January 21, 2012 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Iran: the land where breasts cause earthquakes

      Iran: the land where breasts cause earthquakes
      ...where mammary-glands are morality-guides, where hand-in-backcheek are just good citizenship!

      January 21, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • mark

      joe...the point of jesus is he would never want it that way as to have a statue of himself! you would understand by studying the bible even from the old testament before his coming that his purpose was different and not to be grandiose at his coming and death. another thing is that he died in obscurity while being hated and persecuted by the majority and his followers equally persecuted for hundreds of years after his death! how do you imagine 1st, 2nd and 3rd century bloody rome to treat any paintings/statues or even more descriptive writings of him when his own followers were being hunted down and thrown to the lions and burned alive in the colosseum for all to enjoy?!

      January 21, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      No one wrote about Jesus when he was alive?

      Total nonsense. I know they say the first book was written well after. But that does not mean it was composed of memory or fiction then. Just because the writings of the times can not be found does not mean no one wrote anything down.

      They didn't have face book for instant publishing in that era.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      To Isolationist, there is positively no doubt as to the lives of many people during the time of Jesus. Even relatively unimportant people like slaves. However there isn't even close to the same amount of evidence for a guy who created miracles? Ya... right.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
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