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. DwightHuth

    You go girl! Burn that bra and free yourself!

    January 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. michaelfury

    January 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. gino

    She should go back to the burqa that makes a woman look like a walking badminton birdie. Drives those Middle Eastern guys nuts.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      by way of information No one wear Burqa in Iran and Islam never ordered to do so

      January 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Dear M... ya, except for the police driving around looking for offenses against Islam. You nutter.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Abe

    I wish ALL of you guys and girls wherever and whoever you arey start making educated and decent comments ! One suppose to learn from this format NOT be repulsed !

    January 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      Some where, some how, I missed your example of educated and decent posting.

      This one sure didn't set an example.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. What is equality and freedom

    Ideally equality is when no one is abused.

    But the half way mark will be when it is not defined and identified as the abuse of a gender or a race or an orientation or being short or tall or being unique in some fashion. When people start thinki8ng of this kind of abuse as an abuse against humanity then we will have made some progress.

    Will it ever happen?

    January 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. M

    we re determined to blow u up first .... very soon u will face Iranian people in a real battle ... we most hate our dictator radical government but we hate u more ..U western people think that ur superior and other's r so backwarded... but infact it's only the difference between cultures and civilizations u 've never realized what god has created .. learn to respect other cultures and Idea's.. u r not the criterion of civilized, most cultured people on the earth..that's only ur halucinatins.. U vain people

    January 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      You worship a child raping warlord. Your beliefs are violent and hateful towards women and "non-believers". It's written that the only way to get to heaven is through Jihad, that heaven is a stupid place with a creek, fruit tree and chaste woman, and anyone who leaves Islam needs to be put to death. I will never respect your culture. Good, informed, people will never respect your culture.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      WOW! I think I just saw the kettle call the pot black by someone totally oblivious of the hypocrisy of such thinking.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Hey Mr M (moron)?? Well regardless of what the M stands for, your not the creator who should be telling us how to live or what religion we should believe in. I have a choice to pick my religion unlike you. Your told what to do and when to do it. But this is not about you or your dumb beliefs. She is a woman, she is her own person she has a right to do which ever she desires. You people are so brain washed, you treat woman like statues, You dress them your way you make them do whatever you want and they have no rights. You people need to get rid of the morons running your country. Your prisoners in your own country. Freedom is given to everyone by even your so called God, Why do these woman live in Bondage? but in all you hate me who has never done anything to you people or you yourself. Come visit me, then we'll talk again.

      January 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • chyrd

      The fact is... we are superior... although we may not be perfect we at least try to treat women as equals... which is by far the more moral thing to do... btw... if there is a war between Iran and the us... u will learn how inferior u truly are

      January 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. What is equality and freedom

    A prophet once advised that we love our enemy.

    How many even know their enemy?

    Hard to know something so generalized by propaganda.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. What is equality and freedom

    In the book "the Help" a character said: We love them and they love us but we can't even use the same bathroom.

    Most who levitate to the divisions of "Us" and "them" can not see that the abuse of "them" is also abuse against "Us."

    January 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. What is equality and freedom

    A great many people will accept quite a bit of abuse if it can be made to make them feel superior in some way.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. M

    I have Tora and Bible in my bookcase and I used to read them without any bias but I'm wondered how u can judge of other religion's while u 've never ever even read ur own holy booksand u don't know even ur religion throughly.. u say Jesus is son of God ... how ridicules .. if u study phylosophy a bit u can easily find out that it's impossible logically ..

    January 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      How can philosophy disprove something that needs to be tested by genetics?

      January 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      The day religion goes away will be a great day.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Your a sicko with your dumb religion, You talk religion and your so Hateful, that shows us how dumb you are.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. M

    have u ever been here BillyTheWISEMAN?
    where I should visit U? u studied manything's of me when u don't know me and my people how dare u judge aboutb us

    January 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      And YOU have studied all of those you judge?

      January 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • What is equality and freedom

      Like I said: "totally oblivious of the hypocrisy of their thinking."

      January 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mikey

    You had me at nude Iranian starlet.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. What is equality and freedom

    The men of Iran's society is getting the brunt of the blame.

    I am betting there are women who enthusiastically perpetuate the abusive parts of the norm which does include the abuse of men.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |


    January 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bill

    Iran is ruled by evil radical religious tyrants. Germany was once ruled by evil Nazi tyrants. The free world destroyed nazi Germany. The free world will like wise destroy the radical Islamic goverment of Iran. The Iranian movie star only brings more attention to a society that is held in bondage. A capative society that is trained to look upon women as property, who live in bondage and servitude to men.

    January 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darsh

      Well Said. Any operssive religion MUST die. Any religion that does not lead to spiritual growth, treats women as second class servants to various means, smothers freedom to do anything in life has no future. All living creatures are born free. Our lives are shaped by choices we are free to make for us. If that is controlled by something else, lives get corrupted, rotten, ugly. That something is always a religion. Priest and Politicians are mafias of soul.

      January 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
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