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. Helene

    Showing your body to the world is reducing your value. If her intention was to get asylum, that wasn't the best way to go about it.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      What value, Helen – as far as her cowardly countrymen are concerned, her only value was to make babies or to be sold as a sex slave – she can do that just as well nude or not – they are cowarsds, and so are you for standing up for them in any way.

      COWARDS!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dreamer96

    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."

    Well she is too old to marry a 40 year old Iranian business man she is way over that age of 9 to 12 years old....

    January 20, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. FailedCongress

    The Chinese have it right.

    Wipe out organized religion. I do not care about individual beliefs, but organized religion is just another form of repressive mob mentality.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • AsianNY

      All Asians (East Asia, and South-East-Asia) are Buddhists or Christians. We are very open and liberal society. There is No need to wipe out organized religion. We do not live in the Dark Age like in the Middle East or Africa. We date White or Black.....welll NO Muslim Sorry...Muslim is NO FUN, and We love porks. Go visit Cambodia, Thailand, or Vietnam for your experience.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. jacobshrub

    Does she have a sister?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. maurice spitz

    A very attractive,liberated woman. Thought she was wonderful in Body of Lies.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ahmad

    "Open your mind" they say. As if one cannot open their mind except through accepting nudity. Why can't people understand that the way of life of Europe does not fit the way of life of Eastern countries. If the European norm is to be naked, what gives Europe the right to tell us that it should be our norm as well? Sorry, keep your open mindedness to yourselves, we are happy with our modesty.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Levi

      She posed naked not you. You need to learn to not judge others. In the end you stand alone. It's not the whole of Islam who judges you, only god.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • cinque55

      She did what SHE wanted to do, not what a society thought she should do. It is called freedom. Relax.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • fin ruiz

      then keep to yourself. keep to your backwards ways and backwards thinking. don't use the internet, don't watch the t.v. because all of those things represent modernity. you can not have one without the other but ignorant and selfish people just want to choose what they want. there is a new transparency in the world with all the new technology but you have to be willing to embrace it. It is not the lady's fault that men will lust for her body, it is the MAN'S fault that his brain is flawed to do so but no man can hurt her if she controls her body which she does because she chooses to do what she wants with it. Stop being judgemental and if you can't then go live in the dirt of the middle east. you can find similar-minded people and be among them! this is the contemporary age, catch up OR BE LEFT BEHIND!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • ME

      Modesty does not mean CONDEMNING others who break free of that particular taboo; it is an individual choice to not expose parts of yourself that you wish to not expose.

      Modern civil society does not demand you give up modesty, only intolerance. The current regime in Iran rejects tolerance, and can never be considered "modern" or "civil" as long as that is the case.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Nobody said you had to watch Western oriented media. In fact, your entire political system is hell bent on keeping you from consuming it. You literally have to go out of your way to see this. Notice how she did this AFTER she left Iran. Nobody is forcing Iranians to act "Western". Are we criticizing it negatively? Of course. I think it is hilarious though that you will trumpet the cause of being left alone, yet you can't seem to let go of someone else who made the conscious, personal decision to throw your society into the trash bin that is the Past, which is where it belongs. There is a reason that Iran is not a legitimate world super power. It's not because you're "bad guys" or "evil." It's because you have hung your own neck at the gallows of Faith with the noose that is organized, government enforced religion. It's pathetic, and any opinion you form about the outside world is born of ignorance, close mindedness, and your perspective that the male gender is somewhat superior simply because of the presence of testosterone. So pathetic.

      I, for one, am very happy and thankful that fate dropped my infantile butt in America. I feel sorry for Iranian women. Not the ones who want to be naked, but the ones who follow all the rules and enjoy it. I truly, truly feel sorry for them. I don't feel sorry for my caged guineau pigs because they don't know any better. But a caged woman, in Iran of all places? Sorry, but that would be a terrible existence.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drowlord

      Yeah, I worked in an advertising company recently. They tried to use the mantra "get naked" to encourage us to be more creative and find our inner truths. I kept thinking that some aging art director was a moron and didn't realize that such taboos had been shattered before I was born. Maybe those kind of taboos are a fresh frontier in Iran but it's pretty stale in most of the world.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • speedro

      Nothing to "understand" bro. Eastern nations oppress women, and there is nothing modest about the infusion of violence in these cultures. Get out of the dark ages, there is no god and you only have so much time to live, stop wasting it trying to satisfy a myth. You know that the myth has done nothing for you.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daws

      It's about respecting individual choice not norms.

      And that itself is not a norm, it's a moral principle.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aftab

      Freedom? Haha. If she was walking nude down the streets here in the US, she'd be arrested for indecent exposure. And if she was ugly, fat, and old, you probably wouldn't care enough to defend her. But because she is broadcasting herself, not on a public street, but to the entire world, and behind a lens to further her own career, you call her a freedom fighter? Any western aspiring actress knows baring her chest may gain her some short lived publicity, but it's not gonna win her any oscars, and any Iran actress knows that it'll do nothing for their freedom in Iran.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      You're a coward, Ahmad – you can't stand a strong woman – any more than the rest of your cowardly countrymen – COWARDS – all of you.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      I'll bet you can't wait to throw acid on her face – throw it on yourself – COWARD!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chaz

      Since your region has a history of "bache bazi", keep it behind closed doors.

      February 5, 2012 at 4:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. dreamer96

    Better now, then when she is 80 years old...

    January 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ryanWI

    This just goes to show, no matter how moral you pretend to be, enough money will get any woman to take her clothes off.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Levi

      Do you always make comments with out substance? When did she claim to be full of moral? She was born in Iran, that's it. That lifestyle was shoved down her throat when she was born. She escaped that and is now who she always wanted to be. Congrats to her!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      or a man.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JB

      Or it simply proves that everyone has their own moral code.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • fin ruiz

      since when does nudity have anything to do with morality? men place blame on women for nudity but in reality the moral issue is with the man because the man may be tempted or lust after the naked woman. i think your blame is misplaced sir. she is not hurting anyone.
      It is not the lady's fault that men will lust for her body, it is the MAN'S fault that his brain is flawed to do so but no man can hurt her if she controls her body which she does because she chooses to do what she wants with it. Stop being judgmental and just admit that the real blame should be placed on pigs like you who can't "deal" with the idea of nudity but you can't control your D^&%. if you don't want to see that DON'T LOOK. live by yourself and bathe in a swimsuit.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aftab

      Levi, please, if she's happy it isn't because she stripped. She can go to any strip bar or nude beach to do that. She did it because she gained some internet fame for exposing her chest to thousands, maybe millions, and she hopes her career somewhere. Any western actress can tell her that fame will be short-lived, and that it will not win her any ocscars, nor win her country freedom.

      And Fin Ruiz, stop calling others pigs. You're judging people because they judge, complaining about people who complain. And something tells me, if she was ugly, fat, and old, you wouldn't care enough to defend her.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CAT

    WE HAVE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT THAN SOME IRANIAN BEING NUDE. SHE MUST HAVE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD MOVE

    January 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      Sure got you to comment – didn't it?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. kren

    shes christian

    January 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Thinker

    True democracy can only be reached when women can display their bodies

    Nah just being sarcastic.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Larry

    She wanted to be free.Freedom is all they want in Iran! and the US is going to help them get it!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aftab

      One drone attack at a time.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matil

    I AM OUTRAGED! Who told her to put the hands on the breasts! LOL

    January 20, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alipasha1

      I agree.

      January 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. abbot

    All you guys complain about the spanish inquisition and Crusades.
    1) Crusades was started becasue Muslims were killing christian pilgimages.
    2) Spanish Inquisition was spaniard reclaiming thier country from the muslim moors.
    Thank god we atleast won the spanish inquisition. Or else Spain would have been a muslim hell hole.
    Imagine we won the crusades. The ME would not have been the sewer of the world. And 911 would never happened.
    So loony lefties. Stop complaining and thank the lord you were born in the christian west. Or else you would have been hung up on a pole if you were born in the ME or Pakistan.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      It's not about Muslims – it's about cowardly Iranian males – they can't stand a strong woman – COWARDS!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wcb2009

    I am amazed that a culture could view the naked female as vulgar but doesnt blink an eye at chopping a hand off for theft. Modest? I am thinking Extreme.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      You got that right – violence is OK – but the human body is sacrilege – COWARDS – all of them.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
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