Iranian actress Leila Hatami co-starred in the 2011 film, “A Separation,” which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. But now she is in the world spotlight for a very different reason.
Leila Hatami was attending the Cannes Film Festival where she was greeted by the president of the Cannes Film Festival, Gilles Jacob, with a customary two-cheek kiss. Most of those kisses never even make contact with skin. So what is the big deal?
“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,” said Iranian deputy culture minister Hossein Noushabadi.
Conservative religious leaders in Iran, those who hold the real power in Iran’s government, interpret the laws that govern the daily lives of Muslims to mean that a woman should show no public sign of affection, even something as nonchalant as that kind of kiss, to anyone other than her husband.
In fact, there is a severe limit on what couples may do in public, which is enforced by a morality police. One woman was arrested for walking in the park with her boyfriend.
“If someone walks in the street with his partner and commits an offense, we will deal with it,” said Ahmad Ruzbahani, chief of the morality police.
That woman, Zuhara Bani, a 27-year-old medical student, hanged herself in the detention facility where she was being held after her arrest.
Knowing Iran’s draconian stance on such things, Gilles Jacob did the gentlemanly thing and insisted that Leila Hatami did not kiss him. He kissed her.
“I kissed Mrs Hatami on the cheek. At that moment, for me she represented all Iranian cinema, then she became herself again. The controversy over a usual custom in the West has therefore no reason to be,” he wrote on Twitter.
C moi qui ai fait la bise à Mme Hatami. À ce moment, elle représentait pour moi tout le cinéma iranien, ensuite elle est redevenue elle-même
— gilles jacob (@jajacobbi) May 19, 2014
Image via YouTube