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. mahmoud el-darwish

    With so many truly urgent issues surrounding us in this world today– I marvel that we are all so keenly obsessed by the baring of breasts! Both sides are ridiculous. It's simply not a story worthy of 'viral' status.

    January 22, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Albert Von Sachsen

      If you don`t want something to go viral, give it a vaccine.

      January 22, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. Albert Von Sachsen

    This is horrible. According to the Supreme Leader, earthquakes will rock Iran, women will become sterile and the oil will dry up. He will argue that a return to God must be made in a swift manner and all Western values abandoned. Oh, the Humanity!

    January 22, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Albert Von Sachsen

    Next thing you know, the Iranians will accuse her of being an agent of the Great Satan and the Zionists.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Skorpio

    Eliminate Muslim clerics and it wont be any threats. Islamic clerics (ayatollahs, imams, mullahs, emyrs, muftis, ullemas, etc) are the source of all hatred, violence, terrorism, vengeance, resentment and discrimination). By sending these evil creatures to paradise to join their 17 virgins, the world would be safer, peaceful and happier.

    January 22, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. mydogbill

    immodesty among women is a grave problem in the western world, I'm not calling for burkas but humanity itself has fallen victim to a a lust driven life.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      As opposed to the witch burnings of yesteryear? I'm ok moving away from your preconceived notions of what's "right".

      January 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • g

      the human body is beautiful. get over it.

      January 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigdakine

      Don't the Iranians have better things to do, like wipe Israel off the map? And yes, that was a joke.

      January 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. OregonTom

    Iranians do not know the first thing about nudity.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Gotta Say

      Poor Iranians! They were born fully clothed and have never seen nakedness!

      January 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sonbo

      or personal hygiene.

      January 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jwalcrow

    Welcome to the land of the free – I am happy she escaped that place and is now free to live her life as pleases her.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Kazmi

      It's easy to stare a naked women, rather than a women u call a sister or mother. Think about the pains which his bro or father might have gone through. Why r people in this blog pointing fingers towards Islam. If being naked is ur religion the ask the nons of christianity why do they cover their whole body.

      January 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Typical Muslim reaction by Kazmi. It's never about what the woman wants, it's about the fragile egos of the men.

      January 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crusader

      KAzmi in your culture camels and goats are more valuable than women, your father is a medical wonder giving birth to you and all!

      January 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Plswakeup

    Nudity has been around and appreciated in most culture for thousands of years. You just have to look at the museums for proof. As an artist, I see nothing wrong about nudity. Many of the people who criticized Golshifteh Farahani are probably right now staring at her in private, fantasizing and doing who knows what other activities.

    January 22, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      My very first thought was "I bet Iranian men are at this moment sucking the bandwidth right out of the very last servers in Iran"..

      January 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bubba

    I rather see nude Iranian woman than nude Iranian man.

    January 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. PRISM 1234

    "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."
    In more plain words, SHE PROSTI/TUTED HERSELF!
    What a sad story!

    January 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. justathought

    Clothing is an un-natural thing. Nudity and the wearing of clothing is a cultural thing, I believe that if it were not for the demands of society, except in the colder regions of the world, there would be a lot more nudity, and for a certainty, if it were left up to little kids, clothes would be out. I think for the necessity of sanitation reasons, some clothing is required, but kids couldn’t care less.
    P.S. I'm not a nudist, but I've been at nudist camps and have seen some very unsightly things, better had they been covered!

    January 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • derp

      The fact that you consider the natural naked human body "unsightly" is a sad commentary on your own cultural upbringing.

      January 22, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. joe

    What's great to see is how exposed the thoughts on Islam are becoming. For years it was "Islam is peace", and we had actors and even our current president repeating some lines. But it's all a sham to expand the Islamic empire knowing that Western people are generally good and trusting. However, even the logical Muslims in this thread despise this girl and ask "would you want your wife or daughter to pose nude?" These people cannot even know the concept of freedom of choice and expression. What's the penalty for leaving the Muslim faith? Death. The punishment for adultery (with no evidence) is death. The best advice I can give ANYONE is to read the Koran, research the history it references and come up with your own conclusions. I went in with a neutral POV, and I now despise the religion, and idiotic public figures who reference the parts that Clerics have shown them. If there is a good, peaceful quote, 1-2 pages later that quote will be voided. Islam is ONLY for strict Muslim MEN who fight to expand the religion. This is at the core of their beliefs. Women are only slaves in heaven as well, there are no thoughts otherwise in the Koran.

    January 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. yuri pelham

    Iran is against exposure

    January 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. troy

    People who believe in Islam are the most bigoted and the most deplorable people of this world. They believe in a god that is more dead to them as Muhamed. They believe in a man who is not even a prophet and who will not save them nor save their family or country. You people from Islam are very stupid.

    January 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. troy

    Islam your supposedly prophet muhammed is and will always be in the past present and future a false prophet. A liar and will always be consider a disgrace. You people follow blindly.

    January 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Go read your bible, there is not one there are more than one versions. Go read all of them and find me a quote that says Jesus in son of god. If you can not find it then you are an idiot for following such a religion

      January 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      @Will... what? Ok, I'm an Atheist, but here you go;

      "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus replied: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah". — Matthew 16:15-17.

      You follow a child raping warlord who made little pamphlets to gather tribal troops against much better armies. He said the angel, Gabriel, visited him at night (kind of gay) and told him to write boring rules like; (if you're away from a water source for a certain amount of time, you can pray using sand instead of water. But you MUST get to a water source right away). Or, you can try to be peaceful with Christians and Jews, however they can never be trusted... so they should be killed.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Joe he never claimed he is son of god. Christian scholars are never are able to win arguments against ours. There is a good reason Islam grew at rapid rate in Europe and North America in the 21st century

      January 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      What?! I'm an Atheist who has read both. The Koran is NOTHING more than a rule book with such examples like "one man can be a witness to a deal, but if there isn't a man, then 2 women need to be witnesses because neither of them will remember the details on their own. At least the bible has stories that are meant to be stories on how to base your life, like Aesop's fables. The Koran only has tales of how battles were won because people were faithful, and how battles were lost when they weren't faithful (same army). Most of the Koran is about who and how to punish non-believers. So, as an atheist, I could give a f___ about what verses there are in the bible, but at least Christians are progressing. The last time anyone in the mid-east was great, was BEFORE Muhammed's time. You have NOT advanced since then. That's what concerns me. And I know full well that your beliefs wish me death, which is why I'm glad I was raised around Christians and Catholics.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIKE

      Wow you inspired me man. Tell me more I am interested, as I read what you said I felt truth, tell me more about atheism. I am sorry for insulting you earlier.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
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