By Sasha von Oldershausen (Policymic)
If Western media headlines are anything to judge, the public flogging of award-winning actress Leila Hatami is imminent in her native Iran, after photos emerged of her kissing the Cannes film festival president on the cheek.
“Iran’s top actress facing public flogging after she kissed male Cannes film festival boss on the cheek,” reported the Daily Mail.
“The Kiss That Sent Iran Crazy and the Actress in A Separation to Be Flogged in Public,” tweeted the Daily Beast.
But contrary to what the headlines say, Hatami isn’t facing a public flogging. Let’s get some facts straight:
The photo of Hatami — best known for her role in Asghar Farhadi’s Academy Award-winning film A Separation — kissing Gilles Jacob on the cheek, did draw criticism from Iranian authorities.
Iran’s deputy culture minister Hossein Noushabadi said, “Those who attend international events should take heed of the credibility and chastity of Iranians, so that a bad image of Iranian women will not be demonstrated to the world.” He added that Hatami’s behavior was “not in line with our religious beliefs,” reported Al-Jazeera.
No mention of a public flogging here. The calls that have the Western media up in arms came from a small group of conservative female students seeking legal action against the actress. The students called for Hatami to serve jail time, as well as to receive lashings, according to Iranian website Tasnim News.
But take this with a grain of salt. The calls of these students are not newsworthy.
Hatami has since apologized for the incident, saying that 83-year-old Jacob forgot the appropriate protocol for greeting her, and added that “he is certainly like an old grandfather who was also my host.”
This whole incident is yet another example of how stories from Iran are sensationalized in the Western media. What one group of hardline students believes by no means reflects Iranian society at large.
While the article states that Hatami “apologized,” one Iranian commenter writes,
“She has just expressed regret if sentiments have been hurt and it goes without saying that, at least in Farsi, it has a totally different connotation from apologizing.”