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. Dee

    I applaud her bravery. The men of Iran are sanctimonious fools.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • al beach boy

      all youre doing is applauding her faults and celebrating the disobedience to the creator. youre sad

      January 21, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • zack

      Ya!? let see you applaud your mother, wife or sister doing that.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • DrK

      Al Beach Boy. Yes, let's have her live up to the 12th century standard of Islam. The religion that allowed Mohammed to marry a 12 year old. The relgion that allows you to stone people to death for walking with the wrong person. The women friendly religion that mandates what they wear, restricts their education, blocks their vote and keeps them from driving. I'm sure she can't wait to leave France for sprirtually hypocritical Iran.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • DrK

      Zack. If my sister chose to pose nude I could really give a ratz azz. I'm not going to buy the magazine but it's a non-issue for me. It has nothing to do with my morality. Usually the people who point the biggest moral finger at others have the most secrets to hide.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Freedom Lover

    Women have the right to show their naked bodies to men.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spazzmode

      In fact, they should be forced to. Stripping naked is a right, therefore it should be a requirement. You know, like health care. Seriously though, I'd support socialized medicine if it were administered by naked hot Persian nurses.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      By the time you need a nurse you will probably not be interested in their bodies.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. girl_bandit

    islam, christians, and so on and so on.... have all berated women as 'lesser of value' than men. not just those idiots slamming her in her own country, religion is the root of all évils', and men are the instigators of the abuse.
    Its her body, she can tattoo it all over if she wants, thats her human right.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spazzmode

      "islam, christians, and so on and so on.... have all berated women as 'lesser of value' than men"

      Not all women. Just you.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • zack

      Good!! then we would love to see you walking down the street naked. It so nice to enjoy watching ladies express their frredom. Let us all go naked and be like animals. I still wonder why some animal owners put cloths on their pets????

      January 21, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • The Question Is

      Yes! The question is when are these barbarians going to get it that they are using cruel and unusual punishment against those who are doing no harm but merely expressing their beliefs? Don't they have any conscience!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pierre

    The majority of muslim are ugly, obese and would never get a second look without their costume. The only way they get noticed is by wearing their outrageous garbs.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • chefdugan

      Its very hard to live in the 13th century all the time, which is what Islam demands. The only requirement to be a Muslim is you MUST be ignorant.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • al beach boy

      youre very ignorant and suffer tremendously due to it.... how would you like your mom to pose nude? or your daughter?? or your sister?? or your grandmother?? dont let your desires be your god. dont let your desires dominate your intellect

      January 21, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Beach boy, stop praying on the fragile egos of others. Just because YOU don't like something, doesn't give YOU the right to force it on others. Women have EVERY right to do what they want with their bodies. You don't like it, you are FREE to voice your disagreement (not killing her). Stop trying to dominate everyone. You'll actually be happier for it.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    This girl is so ugly they should be thrilled anyone even wants to look at her. I am sure the muslims would rather have nude sheep to look at instead. Good thing we support the arab world along with Comrade Obama!

    January 21, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spazzmode

      dude the women in Iran are smokeshows. Soon after that government topples (and it will) you will see so for yourself. First Persian society will open up, then Persian chicks' legs will. WHOA! WHAT DID HE SAY?

      January 21, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • bobby

      what do the prez have to with this

      January 21, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  6. Willy Brown

    It’s too bad that Iran is run by a bunch of terrorist thugs hiding behind relegion. The Iranian people are friendly and beautiful people.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • al beach boy

      how about you post a pic of your mother,grandmother, and or daughter nude so we we can see how beautiful they are.
      i know i know..... now you get it smh

      January 21, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Its Wrong

      Executing/Murdering women in Iran just because they choose to leave their religion and express themselves freely is animalistic, inherently wrong, and anti-human!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ala Snakbar

    I sincerely hope she doesn't have family members in danger right now in Iran. They are ruthless and will stop at nothing. Certainly, she will not be able to return and I doubt any family members (still alive) will be able to leave now.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. LUTHER

    I agreed that we in America believe in freedom of expression, but it is not the what I forefathers or the bible meant it to be. I would side with the Islamic belief of covering which is meant only between husband and wife. The world is fast changing and becoming more immoral in it's thinking and society is becoming more corrupt . Have we not learn the lesson from the flood in Noah's day, how the imagination of men's mind was evil continually? How God destroy the earth with a flood to cleanse it from filthiness and spared only 8 people.
    If we keep this up, the next thing is by fire from heaven and it won't be long unless men repents of all kind of evil.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      I agree with you. Immorality prevail in the mind of frustrated men whose life is closer to the animal kingdom than the spiritual. They have their senses and to see a naked woman online gives them pleasure, the women who expose themselves do not understand that they are an object of desire that make many unsatisfied men spell insanity in their lives. And they call this "modern life", between perfection and imperfection stand Eve to help Adam go to Hell. Isn't the test difficult for so many pie brain men who do not represent Human Kind but only the failed sampling?

      January 21, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      You sure don't have to be of Muslim upbringing to have learned to value oppression.

      This kind of thinking is so ingrained in some members of our own society that sincerely do not recognize it as oppressive.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Good to see an example that all religions suppress and reward ignorance.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Spazzmode

    Coincidentally "this just in" is what I'd say right before I nailed her.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Peter

    I do not think there is anything wrong showing off naked. She is free to do what she like with her own body.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Isolationist

    Over half of the people on the planet have breasts.

    Seeing a pair does not bring one great enlightenment that will bring a whole new order to the world..

    January 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ag

      Uh, dude, they ALL have breasts.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Isolationist

      If you checked them all you would find that not everyone has breasts.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. Abe

    Wow ! wonder if the Iranian readers would post such ignorant and utterly stupid and classless comments as most of those comments !!

    January 21, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Isolationist

      I am sure their critique would be a little more specific.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • DrK

      Let her return to Iran and see what comments get made. The clerics would fire them up and after a few robust chants it's stone hunting time!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. DrK

    I'll take the "true believers" seriously when they're indignant about honor killings, public stonings and beheadings. I'll take their indignation seriously when women aren't harassed for showing their face instead of wearing a black body bag. Instead they want to murder cartoonists and models. Big brave men of Islam.

    January 21, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. fidgetwidget

    The hypocritical reactions to this story are just about what I would expect from males. Tell me something: If a males can walk around barechested in public, give me one good reason why women can't do exactly the same?

    January 21, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • DrK

      Issues much? There's many supportive comments from men on this thread.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. iwashere

    I bet she's causing a lot of sleepless nights in Iran right now. Imagine finally seeing breasts of a woman. Not goat or donkey, but a real woman.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • kim

      you would think someone who reads CNN and has access to internet wouldn't be such an idiot but I guess some of you guys don't know anything about the rest of the world. Iran is one of the most beautiful countries. for your information there are no goats or donkeys around. Just because we don't like the government ,we shouldn't disrespect the people of Iran.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Samlv

      Kim – Don't be so quick to think it is so simple. Iran has a culture. That culture produced the government there.

      You assume that Iran is filled with oppressed people who would love the US, and you, if only they were free!

      All evidence suggests that if they had a democracy tomorrow, it would be dominated by the same type of people who run the country now.

      So, even if you are right, and somewhere, deep down, the Iranian people are kind and nice, it would take longer than your lifetime for it to happen. That makes them an enemy right now, at this point in history.

      Treating them otherwise is almost insanely foolish.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      If we want to watch a naked donkey we will come straight to u

      January 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
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