TEHRAN — A popular Iranian actress whose latest movie won two awards at the recent Cannes Film Festival threw her native country into an uproar on Tuesday after images emerged suggesting that she had a feminist tattoo on her arm.
At a news conference on Monday celebrating the return of the cast of the movie, “The Salesman,” to Tehran, cameras captured what appeared to be a tattoo of the “woman power” symbol of a raised fist sticking out from under the sleeve of the lead actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, 32, known by some as the Natalie Portman of Iran.
On Iran’s vibrant social media scene, hard-liners were quick to criticize Ms. Alidoosti, who is married and has a daughter, saying the symbol meant she supported abortion rights and was against the family.
Her many fans came to her defense on Twitter. “Now that I think about it, I have been feminist from the very beginning,” wrote one woman. Other Twitter users were less flattering. “You are advertising foreigners,” said one.
Ms. Alidoosti and her fellow actors had been in Cannes, France, to promote “The Salesman,” the latest movie by Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar-winning Iranian director. During the festival in May, Mr. Farhadi won an award for best screenplay, and Ms. Alidoosti’s co-star, Shahab Hosseini, was given the award for best actor.
For most of the day Tuesday, social media outlets were captivated by two questions: whether Ms. Alidoosti had such a tattoo, and whether it meant that she was a feminist.
Ms. Alidoosti answered one of the questions herself, saying on her Twitter account,“Keep calm and YES I’m a feminist,” but refusing to comment on the tattoo question, saying such matters were private. She also posted an explanation, in English, of the meaning of the feminist fist, which she wrote was “the woman power symbol and became a symbol of feminism.” She could not be reached for comment.
Iran’s women’s rights movement is officially nonexistent, with the country’s judiciary, dominated by hard-liners, having convicted most organized groups trying to change laws that treat the sexes unequally. Despite the crackdown, many urban Iranians say they support equal rights for women. The word feminist, however, is often used by hard-liners as a negative label.
In May, the judiciary issued a warning especially for actors and athletes after several famous figures had been arrested at a party. They were told to adhere to Islamic values or face public naming and shaming. Because of their popularity and large fan base, actors and actresses, especially, always have to walk a fine line.
In another post on Twitter, Ms. Alidoosti said: “Feminism doesn’t mean antiman or antifamily. Feminism means that each human aside from his or her gender has the right to an individuality and according to that, to choose the life that she or he wants.”