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. david

    western culture, u can't be an actress without going naked

    January 22, 2012 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. ST

    Iranian or American or Saudi or from Timbaktu, she is a human being & has right to her choice, as long as it is not illegal & not hurting anyone physically. Too bad if the Iranians feelings are hurt. They should learn to live in this world.

    January 22, 2012 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. M

    To all u Idiots... don't judge of what u don't know anything about...we don't care about her at all and there will be no Fatwa on such a fulish action... every one is free here to be fulish like u.. there isn't any news of her on media here ..only u use to maximize these things for covering ur society's immorality

    January 22, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. gwats

    Personally, I think she is quite lovely, and I hope my words are making some Iman somewhere very angry.

    January 22, 2012 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  5. M

    IN IRAN i've never seen a stoning in whole my life ,not even my father or my grand father..we don't know what r u talking about

    January 22, 2012 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      You are so ignorant, it's amazing. I've never witnessed a murder, but it happens. And you've surely never witnessed any evidence as to your religion, yet you still believe it.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  6. NoGr8rH8r

    It's wonderful being in the 21st century when 3/4 of the world is still living in the stone age. Keep wasting your lives with nonsensical beliefs.

    January 22, 2012 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Meki60

      its a goal of islam

      January 22, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. clearfog

    Obviously a CIA spy but not operating undercover.

    January 22, 2012 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Eamonn

      I firmly believe that, as you say, she was a CIA spy and, as such, it was her duty – her divine right to expose herself as she did !!! Mind you, she also has a pretty heavenly left !!!

      January 22, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. themanfrommars

    Respect the dignity of the religious belief of the Iranian and on the same time, it's the freewill of the actress what she wants to do. tsk tsk tsk, Islam and hollywood don't mix. btw, she is really cute and the iranian people are beautiful and great people.

    January 22, 2012 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
    • basix

      Youre right, the two do not mix at the higher limits of islam. The people, not in the upper leadership of the religion, are punished for the ideals of the higher ups. Since people are people, no matter what religion or culture, trust me the leaders condemiing this hot chick are no different than our version of Jimmy Swaggert and the Jim and Tammy Bakesr. It is sad but we shouldnt be suprised. The average Islamic person is great, providing big brother isnt watching them. The persians are one of the oldest cultures in the world, that also then provided the world with the oldest profession in the world. My point is people, no matter geography, are the same, humans, depending on geography and beliefs make it difficult or less difficult, shamefull or less shamfull to be human. S

      January 22, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      I'll respect Islamic beliefs as soon as they stop their rule that any Muslim changing their religion needs to be put to death.

      January 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. studdmuffins

    A stone age people who actually use stones to punish. Keep away from Muslim dominated countries, sweetie.

    January 22, 2012 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. CW Orange

    The best thing that could be done is to repost those pictures everywhere on the web plainly labeling her as an Iranian national. It will show the islamic mullahs that they do not control the world.

    January 22, 2012 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Yes and then some one will take it upon themselves to murder her in the name of Islam.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Payam

      I 100% agree with you.

      January 22, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. ACEdeerslayer

    sleepy eyed today but hey what no pics darnit .

    January 22, 2012 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. MorningJava

    Oh yeah and the Iranian men and their leaders are sooooooo honorable. Uh-huh..right! They are probably working out their biceps feasting on her pictures/videos. Give us a break. This is story is so not news worthy and not worth wasiting the publics time when there are more important to things to discuss like when Irans lunatic leader decides to pull his itchy trigger finger to start a war with the U.S. which he is clearly dying to do. Dude is a nutcase.

    January 22, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  13. nadia

    i am not an iranian but i dont respect a woman stripping her clothes. If you cant show it to your kids then it is wrong in my view. Thats how kim kardashian got famous by taking off her clothes and when people had enough of her they threw her out. You r nothing but a mans play toy it does not earn their respect

    January 22, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Watusiqueen

      Agreed! But–no one should restrict anothers freedom and that's what the muslim " religion" is all about: enslaving women and enslaving society! It's not a religion it's the the equivalent to Russia under Stalin and his tribe , the Nazi pack in Germany etc–under the guise or excuse of a "religion"! This is no religion -this is dictatorship, terrorism, and control of lives by a relative few on all others. When we are given life, we should be decide ourselves how to spend it!

      January 22, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • ItIsSo

      They're boobs. Nothing more, nothing less. Definitely nothing to be ashamed of. Anatomy. We choose to make them "dirty". Grow up.

      January 22, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. outawork


    January 22, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. aki

    She will get respect by posing nude in west , while she would be dearly respected all dressed up in Hijab,in Iran the true picture of how a woman is be seen in both societies !

    January 22, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Ronieb

      And Islamic society will continue to hold the status of women below that of their Goats or Camel. Time to wake up and see that women are equal members of the world society and become members of the global economy and society.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
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