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. DeeNYC

    Mohammy is upset.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. chrism

    ahh the religion of peace, they will kill her and probably her family back in Iran.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. don garrow

    Farahani is a talented movie actress who happens to have womans body. Is there shame in that?

    Why should she have to answer to an ancient religion that never left the 6th century.

    There are some people who are from the middle east that are extremely beautiful and talented. Why don't they recognize that?

    21st century man

    January 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ?


    January 23, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mickey1313

    this proves how stupid islam islam is, acting this way in 2012, it is almost like killing withcs in this day in age, oh wait they did that LAST YEAR.

    January 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Be 4 Peace

    It's time to tell Iran to join the Peace Movement all around the world instead of taking away the rights of their country's folks!

    January 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. gerald

    This "Iranian Culture" was imposed on you by puritanical foreigners who invaded your country and destroyed your native religion some 1400 years ago.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cizzler

    Iran, what a wonderful place.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tahmineh

    First of all this is not a page created by her or any Iranian because the name of page is (جلشیفته) and we write it like (گلشیقته)
    there must be Arabs to get more hits by creating the page and fans coz only them don't differentiate "j" letter from "g" in our language!
    I have no comment on what she did.they are still long way to go for us to be like western and understand the art in this form,our culture and art backs to miniatures art,whom are so close to Golshifte look.I am wondering how my islamic country brought up such a artistic girl and all my people say is just a conflict between numerous movies they watched from her and her new style of career,they must gradually belive that what they fed inside of iran under name of art and media ,is just a tool for washing their brain. they must take this lesson from the actress who played her best role as an islamic idol whole the time she was iran citizen!

    January 24, 2012 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
  10. asdf

    What a cheap lewd act. I wonder if anyone would be supporting me if I decided to show my dick to the world.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
    • TruAmerikan

      Nah. I'd much rather look at a woman's body.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • TruAmerikan

      Than your little teenie weenie.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maziar

      You are too stupid to understand the message behind what she has done. I am not going to give you and those others with similar posts a hint so you can figure it out yourselfs.
      If you fail to figure it out on your own, please read my post of Jan. 24 under Maziar

      January 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stan

    And just like all the other young, attractive women who trade morality and modesty for fame and riches in the guise of 'art' or 'freedom' they will suffer the weight of their actions in their later years. Yeah, just cause they do it every where else is a good reason to do anything. Whoring yourself to make a point is still whoring yourself to make a point. She's the Iranian version of K. Kardashian. Who gives a rats ass? If it wasn't offensive it wouldn't be news worthy now would it? Morons.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. stan

    It is illegal to be nude in public in north america. You cannot claim 'art' or 'freedom' to do so in our court of laws. You people are morons. In our courts, separate from religion, it is considered 'indecent'. This is neither 'art' nor an expression of 'freedom'. How is standing nude for a photo, a paid photo, a strike for 'freedom'? Daaaaamn, but you people are easy to impress with nothingness! How about all you twits in support strip off your clothes today at work in support of this woman then? What? You can't cause it's 'indecent'?!? Cause it's illegal?! Cause you were brought up to know better?!? Morons.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Maziar

      It is your face that is "indecent" why don't you cover it? It is your mind that is "indecent", why don't you keep it quiet.
      Did you ever think of her act outside of just showing a human body?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. $-)

    If Allah created a figured that beautiful, it needs to be on display.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  14. IndyNC

    Methinks Farahani does not WISH to return to Iran.

    Reguardless of that fact, I say Good for her –
    She should be free to work in the industry of her choosing, how she chooses without some religious crackpot trying to hide her in a burka and lock her in his house to be some sort of domestic slave.

    In the western world we are all free to believe as we choose, but ultimately, inside our heads no one can FORCE us to believe as they do. That is a choice we make for ourselves.

    Obiviously she believes in her art and her work. Good for her. I feel sorry for anyone, man, woman or child who holds themselves back or does not reach their potential because someone else says it's morally wrong. So long as it does no harm to others.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  15. Maziar

    Dear Golshifteh; I am a 77 years old Iranian man. I think what you have done is equivalent to what a few great Iranian scholars such as Omar Khayam and Hafez had done to show their disgust and defiance to primitive Islamic laws. You are a brave and courageous lady and I wish you great success. Maziar

    January 24, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Misstrixie

      Dude, you rule.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cole


      Just like Golshifteh, you are a shining beacon of social progress and global harmony from a part of the world in which the ruling class wants neither. I applaud you, sir.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Sir. You are exactly what this world needs.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Have you ever sliced off the head of an infidel for Islam?

      January 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
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