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. Papacito

    Getting naked for a protest is so 70s....yawn!!!! She got her 15 minutes of fame, that's it!
    I wonder if CNN will cover her if she got naked and hold a sign that readt: "stop torture in guntanamo"!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lise

    Only in Iran or America can little tiny boobies cause such a fuss . . .

    January 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    Most of these people who are complaining about it should look at themselves. What are they doing at night behind closed doors? They should be ashamed of themselves!

    January 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Prince

    From what I've seen, the only people likely to get excited over these pictures are Iran's fanatics. Put in on ice, fellows. Chill.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PaulC

    Are you sure they are not Republicans?

    January 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Easy E

    Hot-tay! Iran, we'll take more of your women, please, but you can keep the bearded Mullahs.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wow

    all the people in the story saying she wont be able to go back to Iran.. she probably has no interest in going back to that assbackward country... all over the world women are allowed freedoms that those in the mideast are not.. most of the women are programmed and mind warped from a young age to believe the way they do.. they have been taught from birth that men are in charge, and women are to be subservient.. sounds like she will get to experience a life that most of the women from Iran will never know.. It was probably from her acting jobs, that she had a chance to actually see freedoms first hand, that she would have otherwise not known about.. a google search reveals the average IQ in Iran to be 84.. This low IQ makes it easier for those in the top 1 or 2 percent to maintain a grip on their society.. It shows an average low level of reasoning ability.. Inability to understand that laws written by MEN and religious leaders thousands of years ago, were made to repress anyone that wasn't male, or like themselves.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Geoffrey Hamilton

    "I'm ashamed to call you an Iranian"

    No, the world is ashamed to call islamic fundamentalists human.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Your mother slept with her clothes on?

      January 20, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Steve Lyons

    Let's hope her security can protect her from the radicals.

    Her former nation is outright evil and I do not trust them.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • loki301

      She has turned her back on Islam, and the Koran makes it easy for us to pass judgement on her. Either she is insane, because no sane person would freely choose to leave Islam, or she is an infidel in which case we shall have to execute her. Simple and fair, that is the way of Islam.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wake Up

      No loki301, your country is still living in the dark ages. Murder as you all like to do for things like this which would never warrant killing a woman in the eyes of the ONE God is murder and God is against that or don't you people know? "Thou Shalt Not Kill" does not give you permission to go ahead and do it because a simple prophet, who was not God, said you could. If you were in this country everyone who did that just because their religion told them to would be tried and executed for Murder! Wake up and smell the coffee! Quit living a barbaric lifestyle, folks!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • No insanity

      loki301, this beautiful young lady is not insane. Far from it! The ones who are insane are folks who think like you and who want to execute her just because she is expressing her right to choose especially when she is no longer in Iran but in another country. Get over it already, people! She is artistic and she has a right to her own life! You cannot follow her everywhere and attempt to live her life for her, she is an adult. If you do, then All Iranian Women Should Follow Iranian Men and Compel Them To Do As the Women Say They Should! Fair is fair, otherwise you are just a bunch of hypocrites who will be judged by God for the murders you commit that are completely without justification.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. vance

    so let me get this straight, the followers of this religion are mad because she bared her body. the same followers of this religion which believe it is ok to marry off your daughter even under the age of 12 to a 30 something year old man.

    BRILLIANT

    January 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      This religion and people also say, a man on top of a man or a woman on top of another woman is okay, but a man and a woman together are not okay. They say one man and four women are okay, and if you want to have a fifth woman, divorce one of the four. How sweet is that??? I am begining to like this religion and people, especially thier women!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. blueyeddevil

    "outrage!" they shout in Iran, as they try to sneak a peek.
    Question- why do Iranian men wear robes? Answer- so their goats won't hear the zippers.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bob Knippel

    I just bet the Iranian government sponsored movies are some real blockbusters. Thankfully, they don't conduct besiness with us, or Hollywood would be out of business

    January 20, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. loki301

    What a vile creature this woman is. She has disgraced herself and, more importantly, she has disgraced the greatest faith on earth that we all know and love as Islam. Not to mention that she has disgraced Iran. Hopefully she will regain her senses and return to Iran to have the wise mullahs decide a fitting Islamic punishment for her transgressions. Only then will she be able to pray to the almighty Allah in the pure and chaste way that females are supposed to.

    January 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Make sure that while she prays to ALLAH, there are no IRANIANS behind her!!! An american is ok.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Censorship Board of the Republic of Iran

      Bravo!

      January 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Let Us Pray

      Let us pray that she comes to her senses and becomes a Christian and leaves such a terrible religion that would execute women for non-crimes but rather for freedom of expression!

      January 21, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. David Crosby

    Islam is pig crap..wrapped in a theocracy off repression...Just like Christianity...They should both be outlawed on Earth...

    January 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mariam

    More power to her and her courage, it's time for all women in Iran to remove their head covering which is nothing but a sign of suppression and obedience. The government can flag and silence one but not half of the population

    January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
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