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. kathleen

    amazing how a such a massive religion can come unglued over a women being seen as she was born .
    come to think of it , if Islam keeps gaining ground , textile companies would be a good investment as Muslims seem very hyper paranoid about seeing a human body .

    January 21, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • She was born...

      So you're saying she was born with boobies?

      January 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Agent P

    She's not very attractive, but I'm going to check out the pix just so I feel like I'm helping p!ss the Iranians off....

    January 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jack Bauer CTU

    There are things in this world that are just out of our control. Sometimes we like to blame ourselves for them so we can try to make sense out of them.

    January 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. 2bits

    Knowing Islamic people–they will probably just have her assassinated as they do anyone who doesn't do exactly what they want them to do–barbaric woman enslavers is what all Muslims are and they try to hide it behind their religion but it's just a culture of abusive treatment of women all over the world in almost every Muslim nation women are just like cattle to the men.

    January 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mycology

    did they blame israel yet? did they blame the jews yet? did they claim she is a zionist yet?

    January 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bolt144

    It kills me the way the whole freakin' world is so afraid of the human body! Grow up everybody!

    January 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tom

    The issue transcends both Iran and Islam. This woman has been entrusted by her Creator (irrespective of how any group or individual refers to him) with a physical body possessed with both beauty and attractiveness. The choices she makes concerning these things with which she has been entrusted are the issue, and these choices have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with either Iran or Islam. And make no mistake – these are HER choices, HER decisions. The same as each person on Earth chooses to decide how to use the gifts that the Creator has bestowed upon him or her. Let's not lose focus simply because this woman's origin is from among those who have yet to learn that condemnation is strictly in the province of the Creator.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rhinoqlit1

    Stone her.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • You First

      Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone!

      January 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lance

    nuke iran !

    January 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    To really see the thoughts of Muslims regarding women, I highly suggest the movie "The Stoning of Soraya M." on Netflix.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Also "Not without my daughter" is good. And nothing beats knowing Islam like reading the Koran for yourself.

      January 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Cue the assassination fatwa in 3-2-1.....

    January 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Will

    In case anybody doubted that muslims are all secretly queeer.

    Iranian women – if you want a real man (and I bet that you've been dreaming about finally finding one for ages), come to USA. We'll show you what men who appreciate and know how to treat beautiful women look like, and please you in ways that Iranian "men" are incapible of.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joe

    They are human, and I wish the best for them. I wish they'd get rid of the Islamic religion. before that they were a great, powerful and intelligent part of the world. Such a shame that the Persian Empire fell to ignorance and hatred. Newsflash Muslims, your prophet was a warlord with a 9 year old bride. He wrote up stories as they came to him saying that Gabriel talked to him (ya right), and yet they were only rules and courses of action that would benefit him as a WARLORD. I mean really, you have to fight for Islam to get into heaven? When a battle went well, it was because everyone was faithful, but when a battle didn't go well it was because that SAME army wasn't faithful? The crazy thing is, in terms of warlords, Muhammed wasn't even significant. Genghis Khan was a warlord of significance, and he owned your asses. Yet no new religion from him. Please ditch your religion, and embrace your true history.

    January 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      HEY JOE.. u studied a little of history i see..that's great but it's not enough brother ..u don't know anything real of our history.. u only believe in what is on ur media's or what they have wrote with bias

      January 22, 2012 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Blind Heart

      Believe what fools believe, you will come to know soon, who was really on a wrong path As soon as curtain will come down and you will depart from this world then you will find out that you were indeed following the footsteps of Devil but it will be too late and there will be no turning back, so enjoy and mock for a little while, you will come to know soon. Every soul carry his own burden and you will rip what you have sown in this temporary life.

      January 22, 2012 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Doc

    The sad reality is that she'll probably be killed by an islamic fundamentalist because of this...

    January 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Scott

    It just a breast... jeez, people need to grow up!

    January 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
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