Free Speech Debate

Thirteen languages. Ten principles. One conversation.

Log in | Register | Mailing list

Loading...
1We – all human beings – must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.»
2We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachments by both public and private powers.»
3We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well-informed decisions and participate fully in political life.»
4We speak openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.»
5We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.»
6We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.»
7We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.»
8We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as is in the public interest.»
9We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.»
10We must be free to challenge all limits to freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality and the protection of intellectual property.»

What’s missing?

Is there a vital area we have not addressed? A principle 11? An illuminating case study? Read other people's suggestions and add your own here. Or start the debate in your own language.

Home | Case studies | The Iranian actress’s sex tape scandal

The Iranian actress’s sex tape scandal

A leaked sex video resulted in Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi fleeing the country to avoid prosecution, writes Fatemeh Shams Esmaeili.

Muslims Around The World Celebrate Eid al-Fitr
(Photo by Majid/Getty Images)

The case

Zahra Amir Ebrahimi is a young Iranian actress who found fame in the popular television series, Nargess, which aired in Iran in 2006. She was at the height of her fame in 2007 when a sex video of her and a young man was leaked and widely circulated. She first heard news of the leak while on a trip in the north of Iran, through friends and colleagues. In less than a day, Amir Ebrahimi felt compelled to take an official stand with regards to the case.

Public distribution of a video, which contained the most private and intimate scenes of an actress’s life, devastated Amir Ebrahimi’s professional career. In a society like Iran, where the female body is heavily censored and sexual matters are still regarded as taboos, such an incident can have a deadly impact on one’s social and artistic reputation. In an interview, Amir Ebrahimi said that the leak might have been due to financial or immoral intentions. Soon after, yellow journals spread rumour of suicide. The controversy reached the point where Playboy covered the story in an article and showed the film on both its website and television channel. After this, Amir Ebrahimi was no longer able to continue her professional career in Iranian cinema and television. She denied the accusations made against her but was sentenced to prison by the court and left Iran for France before imprisonment.

Author opinion

Like any other society, the exposure of private videos belonging to well-known figures and concerning areas such as their sexual relations, intimate gatherings and weddings is widespread and profitable in Iran. However, the lines which reporters and journalists are not allowed to cross with regards to celebrities’ privacy is an issue that has not been fully debated and discussed. Amir Ebrahimi had fallen victim to both the exposure of her private life and the ambiguity of privacy regulations. The man who was found responsible for the distribution of the video was not condemned in any court and Amir Ebrahimi ended up being the only one to pay the price for her involvement in an illegitimate (according to Islamic rules) relationship by being forced to leave Iran.

The exposure of private films occurs on different levels of social recognition, ie for politicians and celebrities alike. It is however important to question both the extent of privacy rights and also the extent to which legal institutions and intelligence services must be held responsible in supporting and providing such rights. Zahra was forced to leave her country only because her privacy rights were not recognized and was thus indefinitely denied of her national and social rights. After this scandal, I wondered about a few things. If Zahra was a man, would she still be forced to leave Iran? Is privacy related to and affected by gender? And does the invasion of this privacy, hold increasingly bitter consequences for women in Iran?

- Fatemeh Shams Esmaeili
Print
Published on: June 12, 2012 | 5 Comments

Comments (5)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. deepblue says:

    It is very ugly and pitty attack against any women in the earth. But in this case, its effects should be more deep and profound due to this region’s characteristic. No women desires this kind of breaches of her’s private life. I really upset when I heard this case. I also strongly believe that someone who hate her or would possess and benefit with this allegation behind this plot. To put in a nutshell, someone must wanted to destroy her’s life and career for some reasons. We can see lots of example related this case anywhere in the world.

  2. dinazahmed says:

    I think it’s not expected from anyone. This video was made with their consent. I have a question if she was a pious woman then why did she did sex with her Boyfriend? It is strictly prohibited in Islam. She refused that she was not the woman in that video only on that time for escaping the trial. After that she went to France. If she is a pious woman why did she leave her Muslim attitude? Have anyone seen her present life style? She is just living like western non muslim people. Her dress up doesn’t show Muslim attitude. I think both Zahra and her boyfriend could be punished. Modernization doesn’t mean that she can do anything in that social life. I don’t believe she was a pious woman. She will not be able to return to her country in future if govt permits also. Because, in Muslim social life it’s a dangerous offense. So, she will live in foreign country. She will have to marry a non muslim person. Because no Muslim will marry her for lifetime from the heart. Because, her child will also be affected for her scandal in future. I don’t wish that. But this is the true picture for her. Someone may says, sex is her personal matter. Of course, it’s personal. But there are rules for that. She was in Islamic country and she knew that premarital sex is not allowed in her religion. So for her mistake she will be getting the reward as well as her whole family will be affected. So we should be careful to do the right things.

  3. I agree with much of what Dinaz Ahmed says, though let me posit a further problem: What about all the people who are engaging in extra-marital affairs but who don’t get videos of themselves posted online with everyone knowing who they are? Even if we agree with an Islamic state being run with Muslim laws, we run into the problem of some laws being very hard to implement. If they can’t be deployed fairly and equally then it becomes about picking on celebrities and “popular justice”.

  4. dinazahmed says:

    Yes , people who r engaged in extra-marital affairs, are also sinner in Islam. So that is the difference between good and bad people. Ebrahimi is one of them. We all know what she has done. And of course we don’t know about many people. But we should see bad people in the same way.

  5. ank says:

    I think she might be right in leaving the country .Everybody has a right to a private life. Right to freedom however underestimated it might be is above any religious laws.Do pardon me if it hurts anyone’s feelings.Coming back to the topic, I think the culprit who released the tape should be brought to justice.Live in relationships are very common in many socities , so all of them are immoral ? Many celebs then are the professionals in this field ,so why not ban them as well

Leave a comment in any language


Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk