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 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. rooney©

    Good for her! I remember her from "Body of Lies". She was good in that, she's pretty too.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. ___________________

    The Ayatollah took the pictures into his holy outhouse for closer examination.

    He was in there for hours.

    The poor man was exhausted when he finally came out.

    Now he has carpel tunnel syndrome.

    January 21, 2012 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
    • ___________________

      And Ajhmadinajad kept banging on the door.

      He kept yelling, "You've had them long enough! Give someone else a turn!"

      January 21, 2012 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. PRISM 1234

    That's not what Iranian/ Islamic women need, to be cheapened and degraded even further. Posing nude DOES NOT liberate women. This one got what she asked simpathy here! If she wanted to make difference for her kind, there are many ways, more powerful and meaningful. To imitate West and their "liberties" is a sure way back into bondage!

    January 21, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      Sympathy is spelled with a "y" genius and you are welcome to your opinion so long as you don't live in Iran. Point being she is free to do as she chooses. A luxury some have taken for granted.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • PRISM 1234

      LOL! Does my missing "Y" make my post less true? Yeah... you can have your liberties, and you can strangle yourself with it too! The US is vivid examle of what I'm saying!

      January 21, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • PRISM 1234

      P.S. I know "P" is missing in my "example", but that also doesn't make my post less valid!

      January 21, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Freedom

      The NEED to control others is pathological thinking. I hope you and others who demonstrate this NEED find a way to get better – the world will appreciate it.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      She is her own person ans will do and say what ever it is she wants. Understand? Liberation is for all, not the few selected by your religious leaders.

      January 21, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      You said "To imitate West and their "liberties" is a sure way back into bondage!"

      You have GOT to be kidding me. Seriously? There is NO culture on the planet more repressive and oppressive than islamic culture...none at all. Anyone believing that a society that forbids education of women, forbids expression of women, allows "honor killings", doesn't allow them to vote or I need to continue? Islamic culture is the most repressive, brutal and barbaric on the planet, and the crusty males are keeping their societies rooted squarely in the 4th century. Guess what happens when the rest of the world doesn't need oil any more? 🙂

      January 21, 2012 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Send me hate emails so i can laugh!

      your a clown. simple learn to spell the truth of the matter is regimes no matter how strong everntually will fall. The world is moving rapidly and Iran is stuck in the Nomad Era wake up already. Is the spagetti monster in the sky helping that broke ass country anyway?

      January 21, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • PRISM 1234

      Hey, Larry, it'll do you good not to read into things.. Nowhere did I say islamic regimes are not oppressive. But those countries certainly don't need western style of garbage to degrade their women even lower! Why is it so hard for you to understand what I'm saying?!

      January 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sagebrush Shorty

    A Muslim woman actually made a decision regarding her own body! I'm sure there will be a sentence of death imposed if she returns to Iran. Islam is cruel and primitive.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jim

    I'm sure the Iranians were shocked-shocked!- to learn their women even had breasts!

    January 21, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. shahin2102

    She basically sentenced herself to death by doing this. I've never been more proud of my brave Iranian kinsmen.

    Long live a free Iran...

    January 21, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • FreeIran

      Very well said! Agree emphatically!

      January 21, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      And people like you and her give us hope. Rock on.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. corky

    Those who seek to control your every move will be vanquished in time.

    Freedom, the ultimate Jihad.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • shahin2102

      No matter how you call it, freedom of both mind and body is the final frontier that the human kind must pass.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. Primary

    This is not much like the corruption of child stars like Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus; it is a clear political statement aganist the Iranian regime and its suppression of human, esp. women's rights.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. person

    Why are people so offended by nudity? It is a part of nature. It is what you truly are as a human being. Uptight religions need to chill. Just because one does it, does not mean the whole population will. Governments and countries should not be run by religious teachings.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. al

    we come into the world naked, so what do muslims get all bent out of shape for this because of thier stupid religion. it is them who see those pictures with evil emotions those who condemn are the evil ones. they can't admit that they have no control of themselves whenthey see a naked person and have evil thoughts. so they have to blame someone else. yet they don't condemn their practice of marrying child girls to 40 or 50 year old men who have multiple wives and treat them like slaves or animals. and when they get tired of them they acuse them of adultery so their stupid laws can execute them. THAT IS NOT EVIL TO THEM ! HIPOCRITES

    January 21, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff Chicago

    Perhaps organized religion should take off its clothes so the world can see what's underneath.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Thomas

    I think what this woman did was so stupid. I don't think exposing yourself is a wise thing to do. For what? Freedom of expression? Give me a break. I don't like Iran's suppression laws, but to think you are going to somehow further your artistic expression by exposing your body is just nonsense. Satan wins again.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Judith

      The naked body is not "Satan." There are few things more "godly" on earth.

      January 21, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. nathaniel

    Oh No.. Not a nude body! Wow.. never seen one of those before. Let's get mad about that. – So pathetic.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. nx3pde

    In a country ruled by a primitive "religion" when someone fights against obscurantism it's something to be praised.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Freedom Lover

    I am eagerly waiting for President Obama's daughters to grow up so i can see nude pics of them.

    January 21, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • _____

      I got some nude pix of your mother. Wanna see them?

      January 21, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Spazzmode

      Yuck dude. They're gonna have Hulk-arms just like the ones their Mom uses to beat their Dad. Big biceps like that Chyna broad.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • al beach boy

      ppl assume that bc a muslim is from over seas they automatically know their religion. this is proof and evidence to refute that notion. why would a believer want to immitate the disbeliever. why would a person who knows who their lord is and know that theyre gonna stand before him on the day of ressurectinon do this. indeed, no one is prefect except allah the most high and us as humans will make mistakes but is it really that hard not to get naked in front of a camera for the world to see. smh may allah guide her as well as the rest of the muslims and non muslims who think this is cool

      January 21, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • bobby

      you are sick.fantaszi about young girls

      January 21, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • zack

      I second that wish for all kings, Presidents, Prime Misters. officials in thUS or abroad. Let see the reactions on their faces.

      January 21, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • DrK

      Allah married a 12 year old. Doesn't sound so perfect to me. Just another religion based on "Do as I say, Not as I Do".

      January 21, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      A 9 year old, Muhammed married a 9 year old. And no, we don't respect your notion of a god that punishes people for being free. I've read the Koran, I've read your hatred towards non-believers, your idea of heaven being a creek, a fruit tree and a chaste woman (sucks to be a Muslim woman), I've read your rules that you need 2 women compared to 1 man as a witness, because 1 woman is too stupid to remember details. I also know that penalty of converting away from Islam is death. This girl wanted to be free, and you should advance your beliefs 500 years.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
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