Iranian women living in exile in Europe have stripped off for a video to promote their nude calendar in an effort to fight sexual oppression in their home country.
“My nudity is a ‘no’ to stoning to death,” say the defiant women in the YouTube video, posing topless to scream against “a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”
In analysts’ opinion, nudity is a powerful protest tool in the Islamic world, where women cover every part of body, except the face and hands, with loose shadow-proof robes. In Iran, a Muslim woman wearing shorts may spend up to four months in jail.
The controversial promo is set to boost sales of the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar released for global sales on International Woman’s Day. The calendar honors an Egyptian blogger, Aliaa Magda Elmahdy. In November Elmahdy, outraged with a ban on nude models in Egyptian universities and books, set the Arab world on fire by posting a full length picture of her naked self on the web.
In the late 1970’s Egyptian official art schools saw a social ban on the tradition of nude models. Besides hindering arts studies, the ban brought certain censorship into mainstream arts, including cinema.
“Islamism and the religious right are obsessed with women’s bodies. They demand that we be veiled, bound, and gagged,” sighs Maryam Namazie, the human rights activist behind the nude calendar featuring Iranian women.
Namazie’s initiative sends one more message of homage – to the Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. After posing topless in Madame Le Figaro magazine, the actress received a phone call from the Iranian government, who warned her against returning home.
“Islamists want us covered up, hidden, and not seen and not heard; we refuse to comply,” Namazie writes in her blog.
In Iran, the nude calendar and promotional video stirred controversy even among local feminists.
Majedi adds that the calendar is an “absurd caricature” of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, as fighting for Muslim women’s rights in tolerant Europe is nothing compared to raising your head in Egypt.
“One does not have to live in the Middle East and North Africa to feel the threats of Islamism,” Namazie replies in her blog. “But, nonetheless, threats or no threats, in Egypt or not, isn’t this the whole point of international solidarity?”
The video and the calendar also feature Golshifteh Farahani, an Iranian actress who has been banished from her home country because she posed nude in French news magazine Madame Le Figaro. The picture, a black-and-white “art shot”, shows the 28-year-old posing against a black backdrop with her hands strategically placed over her breasts.
Following the publication of the photo, Farahani, who has starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, was asked by the Iranian government not to return home.