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. GaryOwen27

    The Iranians are funny people. They decry the US for it's support of the Shaw who they accuse of being a dictator but it seems to me that they just traded one dictator, the Shaw, for another, Islam.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke

      Is the Shaw the Shah's evil twin ?

      January 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Yes, yes it is. Tommy Shaw. Hime being fron the river Styx and all.He's also got too much time on his hands.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Aleks Yakubssohn

    Time to bomb the mullocrats is long overdue. Do it, and in no time the iranian folk will be free to bare–or not to bare–their breasts as they wish, not because some impotent idiot in power tells tjem to

    January 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Yes, bombing people and murdering them by the thousands is always the best way to bring them freedom and liberty. Just use the wonderful example of Iraq, which is now a flourishing and free democracy devoid of oppression of women. Oh wait, that's completely false, but I'm sure there are lots of examples of Islamic societies that were made wonderful with bombing. Just need to think of some...

      January 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThinkingJim

      A couple of bucks worth of beads would be cheaper and easier.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. katunzi

    That girl she is not right at all..she has shown that by posing nude is the freedom without knowing only people back in the middle age ware naked but now people are well educated with or without religon...she was raised in religios life so am asking myself if she is just fighting for democracy why now she is doing this in France and not in IRAN? only DEVELs can crap hands and praise that gal....totally LOST that is what she has just learnt from France...

    January 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martina

      Relax. She's not fighting for democracy. She's trying to advance her career.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • robert dwr

      You got this all wrong!...
      She knew this was going to happen...
      She also knew that she can easily get asylum at any eurpoean country since they cannot refuse to take her in light of the sanctions they are imposing on their goverment... If they send her back and she is going to Jail for sure, they will be confirmed as.s..@##...
      Now she gets great attention and good jobs. She gets a instant residence on the country of her choice with a passport that will allow her to travel almost everywhere.
      She gets a pay raise, paid interviews and she also gets to be a big figure of the Iranian opposition as an extra.

      If she decided to become an escort like many other models do at places like London escorts or Charlisangels in the Caribbean, she can only cash in while young and then she will have to return to her country wasted and with little money.

      Now she is on the big leagues... She won't be poor and she won't be ignored... (death treats tend to keep you in the news – Just ask Salman Rushdie)

      January 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Atheist4Evr

    Iran sucks. Islam sucks. The entire Middle East sucks. That is all.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • SOD

      ______ the middle east
      there to may problem
      they just get in the way
      we can sure live without them
      they hijack our planes
      and raise the oil prices
      We'll_____ them all and have a ball
      we'll end their_________ing crisis.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Martina

    I don't get this American preoccupation with seeing an actress naked. It seem it's always a big boost to a woman's acting career. Whether she really has acting skills is secondary as long as she's "hot". Growing up in Europe, we could see anything at any age. Hence, seeing a woman naked is not a big deal to anyone.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana safe in Alaska

      Our women, the fine ones anyway shave their legs and armpits. Of course you people think of it as a no big deal,

      January 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martina

      Oh, we do too :-). Don't worry. Only French & German women don't. On the other hand, I've never seen so many obese women in Europe as there are on the US.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martina

      And at least, European women are feminine. American women only think about how much money the guys makes. That is, how much they'll get when they get divorced.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • frs

      How did it become an 'American' thing? You mean no other country on the planet enjoys the beauty of the female form? No where else in the human race is nudity seen as something beautiful? Only one culture understands the idea that the human body is created without clothes on it? Have you been to France lately, or ever? Ever notice that the great Grecian and Italian sculptures of centuries past were all nude? Geez, you are a biased, unthinking, prude if ever there was one.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana safe in Alaska

      TOUCHE Martina.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martina

      No frs. I'm just saying that in no other country you can become famous just by getting naked. You also have to be intelligent and talented.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dana safe in Alaska

    I guarantee if I did this ( running around nude ) being a 59 year old, old man I would hear a much louder outrage even in this country.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martina

      Well yeah, there is no much to look at with men to begin with, no matter how old they are.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Must not hve seen the men I'VE seen, Martina....

      January 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Martina

      I really don't care about seeing them, banasy. I only find a guy attractive as long as he has a brain. Not smart = not hot.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Colin

    Anything that infuriates god-nuts, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim, is fine by me. Ever wondered why the sky-fairy believers are always so ruffled by naked women? Methinks they have $exual issues and want to play the spoiler.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rosstrex

    So she disrobes and she is denounced for it.... Islamic Terrorists murder Sunni and Shia in their Mosques, Christians in their Churches, Hindus in their homes and Buddhists on the side of the road and we do not hear a peep out of Iran... This happens and it is a firestorm. If this is not proof that Islam is a religon created by men than what could?

    January 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colin

      As opposed to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, that were NOT created by men? Its all BS with different costumes.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. VietWarBaby

    It's about time Iranians stand up for themselves. I don't see anything wrong with her posing nude. As a matter of fact, someone tell her to move her hands!!

    January 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Murtaza H. Bandali

    She must be punished, She must know the norms of being a Muslim, The present war or the wars of before are because somebody removed pardha, then they were banished, and that is not in vain. We follow Iran as the only truly Islamic country that recognized the Gem. Some 7 lashes will be enough and must read Pardha in Islam.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frank Rizzo

    Well what else is News besides Israel and the US Threatening to bomb Iran over their Nuke Program?, oh yea the Iranian Girl who went rouge lol. Hey it's the Iranians right to condemn her actions, she knew exactly what she was going to face from the Islamic World I think she planned the whole thing just for a quick green buck and her five minute fame lol.

    January 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RUFFNUTT

    no wonder the iranians are always ready for war and angry... they can't even get a hand job.. or see the chicas grandes

    January 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sqeptiq

    Iran's principle: Murder good, naked bad (hard to hide bomb on naked body).

    January 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. augustghost

    Iran is still living around 5000 BC

    January 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Too Much Credit

      August, you give them far toooo much credit by modernizing them! In actuality, they can still remember cavemen experiences!

      January 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Martina

    Honestly, frs. Exactly because, Europe has such a long history and culture as you pointed out, we are not so easily amused by such banal things like a naked girl.

    January 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olivia

      I just don't understand how this became about America. This is an Iranian woman who posed nude in France. Why are we taking the hits here? If the Europeans are so bored with the female form because of their "long history and culture" why is it then that a French magazine asked her to pose nude?

      January 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoWhat

      That's not nakid woman. Can't even see a thing. But then muslims have weird ways about a woman's body. Dumb people freak out by the sight of hair and skin.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • atc333

      Puckles: You have it wrong, Man covered himself with leaves and skins AFTER eating the apple.

      January 21, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      Olivia we got our puritan culture from Europe. A culture that is alive and well in some parts of Europe today.

      As far as the boredom with the feminine form? Perhaps you should take another look.

      January 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
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