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. Remford

    Ten million Iranians calling her a harlot – as 9.5M of try to conceal their arousal.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      by the way Iran's population is not only 10 million...but 76 milion
      and most of our people decry her action

      January 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alex

    GOD BLESS THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN AND DESTROY ALL ITS ENAMIES AND FOES.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Ememies LOL

      January 21, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Samlv

      ^^ God Bless the FBI, who is charged with watching people like you, so that you can't 'avenge' your anger on the USA.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Bman5

      god does not bless iran you fool, f@gg it allah does, prophet mu hom med socks swine reproductive organ

      January 21, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    I say the Iranians should blow themselves up in one massive suiside bomb to protest

    January 21, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Samlv

      Great idea!

      That would make a great election foreign policy plank.

      "We think nations should act in accordance with their beliefs. For example, Iran should kill itself to become a martyr to Allah."

      January 21, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. TonyK22

    What pictures? They are all taken down.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kookynutso

    I sure hope the Iranians and other middle easterners get nukes. Since they're still executing people for witchcraft and stoning people to death, it would have been like the American colonists getting nuclear weapons. Imagine all the good that they could have done then! Allah allah bo ballah, banana fanna fo fallah, mi my mo mollah...Allah!

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

      That's very good. I do remember that song: The Naming Game (1960s).

      January 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chris, Austin

    I see a lot of people from Iran on here criticizing this woman, applying their cultural standards to her behavior. What you fail to understand is that this woman has left your culture. She can clearly never go back. This is her way of telling you that she is a free, westernized woman. It's like a societal resignation letter.

    This woman no longer belongs to you. She has informed you, and the world. Loud and clear.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Schweddy

      Me Likes, Me Likes it A lot

      January 21, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • gia

      If showing your t*ts is what it takes to show that you are a "free, westernized woman", then maybe that explains why millions of others prefer their burka

      January 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fayemisi

      I agree 1000% percent!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Let the People Choose

    What Iran seriously needs and in the worst way is for the people to Demand the equivalent of America's First Amendment Rights! Freedom of Religion should be what Iranians should be demanding! It's the Twenty-First Century, you all! Quit living in Pre Dark Age times already! Let people have the RIGHT to choose their own religion and freedom of expression!

    January 21, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • The Time Is Now

      Damn right! The people of Iran need to be liberated from such an oppressive religion and form of government, posthaste!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Samlv

      You need to travel around the world to realize that what you just posted makes absolutely no sense.

      We need to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it would be.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • The Time Is Now

      Let the People Choose is right! The Iranian people need to organize Now and DEMAND their freedom and their right to do as they choose as long as it does not hurt anyone else in the process! They need to show Iran through demonstrations that they are fed up with their country's BS and will not take it anymore! There is Great Power in Numbers!

      January 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. cocopuf

    All I can say to her is: Don't ever go hiking anywhere near Iran. Capice?

    January 21, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. johnkeating

    Meanwhile, I'm trying to get the U.S. to accept public nudity [and other taboo things].

    January 21, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Samlv

    The fact that she does not live in Iran speaks volumes.

    Even worse, she has to hide so that she's not suddenly found in Iran, or worse.

    If Allah has anything to do with Iran, he's at least napping for the moment.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. Never Tell

    I just wish that everyone on earth had the option to be nude whenever they want to. What is wrong with human flesh? We don't hold it against cows that they show their breasts! We don't care when monkeys show their breasts! We don't even care that African and South American tribes have women running around with their breasts exposed.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  12. TODD

    DIDN'T THIS COUNTRY PRAY DAILY? WHAT HAPPEN TO THEIR GOD THAT WAS SUPPOSE TO SAVE THEM. THEIR GOD MUST BE TOO BUSY BANGING CHICS

    January 21, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • The Difference Is

      They believe in a prophet, Todd, not a god!

      January 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thien

      Rehmat the story of manipulation of US poeisnn funds by zionist organizations, including UJF, has not been told boldly enough. Once again using Iran as the boogey man, zionist organizations embarked on a nationwide campaign to induce state employees' and teachers poeisnn funds to divest from shares in international companies doing business with Iran, EVEN WHEN and EVEN THO those positions formed the safest and surest portion of the poeisnn funds' portfolio.California was the first state to so dives and was used as a model by UJF. Today, California's poeisnn fund is bankrupt. Cause and effect relationship? That would be unfair to assert. But it certainly didn't help California's poeisnnersand poeisnn fund managers to have to navigate around threats of financial punishment from zionists AS WELL AS the normal difficulties of maintaining a massive portfolio.Similarly, when the US economy is in deep trouble, why has the US Treasury created an office, directed by Stuart Levey, to go around the world threatening and strong-arming companies that do business with Iran, exacting fines from them for transacting with Iran? Doesn't the US Treasury Dept have enough to do to keep the US fiscal house in order?

      July 11, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. RapidOne

    Bravo - and truly brave and bold, no matter what anyone says.

    Only open minds can achieve harmony and peace in this world, and this woman has, whether it was her intention or not, pushed the wheels in the right direction.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      that we all will be free to wear the same uniform (even alenis), and instead of mosks and churches we will have a great fleet of starships. The greatest will be the Enterprise, and its first commander will be Captain Kirk...So do not give up hope, in only a few hundred years it will not be our religion or race that differenciates us, only the colour of our uniform will tell us from which department we are. There are lightyears of space, and God or ALLAH or Shiva or Odin or Ra will be history.Youb4ve gotta look at it from above!STOP BEING FRIGHTENED !!!

      July 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. heltay

    I wonder if the Iranian guys they mention in the article would mind their wife or sister to pose nude.one also has to wonder if most of those who commented on the article would like their mother or wife or daughter to pose nude.Nudity all of a sudden became a good ethical thing as long as it is coming from Muslim woman.I believe in the beginning we men and women used to be nude and as we became civilized we started to cover up, are we going backwards or forwards.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      So because your fragile ego doesn't want to see your Women nude, you need to keep them covered at all times and threaten them from ever showing skin? If my wife wants to show skin, that's her decision. Would I like it? Probably not, but it's a 50/50 relationship. Women are not slaves for your amusement.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. heltay

    I think joe you would agree as a man or a woman that there is a difference between skin and boobs and butts

    January 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Not really. You just come from a dominating belief system, where you believe you MUST control these women, for the best of everyone. Meanwhile, men can do whatever they want. I really hate your religion and beliefs. I really do.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
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