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. yoman

    nice world we live wanna become a "web sensation"? take off your clothes

    January 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • mr. Magoooooooooo

      You missed the point. please read.

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

      If Lindsay can do it – anyone can – it's not about nudity – it's about repression and religious intolerance. Wake up.

      Iranian men are cowards – they can't handle strong women – they throw acid in their faces. What about YOU!!!! Can't you show a little courage?

      January 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GoodPlan!

    Pose nude, ask for asylum. Very smart!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      It's the way of the middle east COWARDS!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    All the bloody Mollahs do things that are not supposed to and in public they act as they are god. Who cares? She does what she wants!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      Good for her – and hope for women in the middle east – where their men are COWARDS!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Portland tony

    This is taboo on American TV (NOT CABLE)! Remember Fox being fined for a wardrobe malfunction? Whose in the stone age?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Corwin7

      No one is yet...but if Iran keeps going on and on about how it wants a nuc we may just see Israel giving them one soon...THEN who will be in the stone age?

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

      Yeah, but Janet Jackson isn't going to be sentenced to death by having her skull crushed in with a rock for showing her boob. The instant this young woman sets foot in Iran, she's toast.

      January 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lauren

    "She should be ashamed." OF WHAT? It's not shameful to be a woman. Backwards.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tensai13

    This woman is young and gorgeous, why shouldn't she bless us with her beauty?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mr. Magoooooooooo

      bless us with her booty

      January 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      We are all blessed by her cougare -something middel eastern men are very short of – they can't stand a woman of courage – they are cowards – and worse.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jdoe

    Shouldn't CNN at least show the pictures so that readers can determine whether they're immoral or not?

    January 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mr. Magoooooooooo

      Blame the moral police who enjoy being slaved by religion and preach freedom. A nation of little boys and girls who are afraid of everything unless they are holding a gun. Then then they are tough. But when it comes to a girls body, "oh no, burn her at the stake. the world is so horrible.wahhhhhhhhhh"

      January 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WachetAuf

    Her body belongs to herself. She may do with it what she chooses. Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other sins are invented nonsense. Hurting yourself is not sinful–just stupid.

    The problem with all religious doctrine – ALL RELIGION – is the obsessive need to control the minds of others. They seek to imprison others, but in the end become the prisoners. The remedy is to ignore their sanctions and let them remain in the prisons which they have constructed for themselves.


    January 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roadrunner

      Well Said!!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      And in the good ol' USA we're still putting people in metal cages for carrying around plants.

      But yea..uh.. those oppressive Iranians... yea!

      January 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • edge

      Religion is evil. Spirituality is delusion. Faith is empty. Why don't we start dealing with whats right in front of us... something that should be easy since we can see the weak, the poor, and the oppressed without the need of preachers, imams, and rabbis. When you build a religion out of fear... fear of God or of his religious enforcers... you become obsessed with your personal salvation and safety, and become blind the the real, corporeal misfortunes of reality. We KNOW those exist, as opposed to faith in the supernatural which involves ignoring inherent, real doubts. We should trust and use our eyes before we start trying to see things that aren't there.

      It's time to help fellow humans. God can take care of himself.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry G

      Islam, the religion of persecution.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrHanson

      Oh dear atheists, Why should we help other people? Isn't that what evolution is all about? Survival of the fittest?

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

      altruism is an innate human trait. religion does nothing but get in the way of it. those who subscribe to religious dogma are giving and honest because they are afraid of punishment from their imaginary higher power. those without religion are giving and honest without fear of retribution from god; they do it simply because they are strong and moral people.

      January 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      Well said – the men of the middle east are cowards – they can deal with women of courage – their answer is to throw acid in their faces – they SUCK!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • UncleBen

      MrHanson: "Oh dear atheists, Why should we help other people? Isn't that what evolution is all about? Survival of the fittest?"

      No, it's not. Educate yourself on the theory of evolution before commenting on it.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      @ Bill, Listen Cheech, You can leave this page and take your bong with you. On top of that, at, least the people in the US don't get be-headed or stoned (no pun intended) for being caught with Marijuana.

      January 23, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Shawn

    The moment an Iranian gets a taste of freedom, they simply cannot stand living in Iran.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Akim

    Another addition to the nude community and one more piece for pervert to look at.....I hope she gets back to normal life.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobNAlabama

      She is normal. It's the Iranian society that is so perverted and backward.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      The only person who thinks these beautiful pictures are perverted is you.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • 28mAmerican

      Why be ashamed of what god created? He didnt create you with a burqua on , that was all man. Personally I think she is beautiful, nothing more, nothing less. Im thankful what ever god made her had the good sense to do so.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • FailedCongress

      Last time I checked Akim we all came into the world naked. You shame Allah by judging his creation with the mind of a mere man.

      January 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      You are the pervert – COWARD!!!!!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul in lost vegas

      Akim, you are an insult to humankind...... you are an insult to your God.... you follow the "will of men" so well that you are a slave.... you want to be a neanderthal???, then you will "go the way of the neanderthal"...... i feel sorry for you that you wont allow your women to show their faces to anyone.... you are full of fear.... pitiful Akim..... your religious text was plagurized from other existing false texts... and your Mohammad, created the lies that you follow, not a supreme being..... silly man, you live in a modern world but cling to Neolithic concepts..... as if the earth were still the center of the un

      January 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vumba

    Hoping the best for her.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      Me too – and for women of courage in the middle east – Iran is a nation of cowards – they hate women!

      January 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonG

      @ Thinkster – and you definitely belong to the nation of morons b/c you dont know jack sh!# about Iran.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinkster

      RonG – I don't care about the cowards of Iran – they suck – they are cowards – little perverted boys that wouldn't know what to do if a strong woman came anywhere near them – Iran can kiss my a$$ – and so can YOU.

      January 20, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • RonG

      I'm not interested in your a$$.

      January 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. moe smith

    "I'm ashamed to call you an Iranian."

    As bassakwards as that country is, i'd be proud to make someone ashamed to associate me with their country! LOL. Bravo young lady! Bravo!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. it doesn't matter you won't call

    no matter where you are "conservatives" are always the same especially in the USA and Iran. They'll willing send their children off to war to die for a silly ideology but they'll condemn a woman for showing her body?! ...Ignorance just plain ignorance!

    January 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    More propaganda from CNN on Iran! Trying to downgrade the state of life in Iran. Luckily people aren't that stupid..

    January 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Joe, i think FailedCongress is..

      January 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bruce

    Good for her, at least she is now able to express herself.

    January 20, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
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