In late September, the Iranian city of Yazd hosted an awards ceremony for the Iranian film industry. Actress Gohar Kheirandish presented the award for best director to Ali Zamini, and Kheirandish became so excited that she kissed Zamini on the forehead and shook his hand. Kheirandish immediately found herself in court and at the center of a debate over public morality.
Following strict Islamic law, it is illegal in Iran for unrelated men and women to have any sort of physical contact, including handshakes. Former Iranian ambassador to the United States Hadi nejad Hosseinan was quoted by an Iranian newspaper as explaining that while serving in the United States, “During ceremonies, I hold a glass in one hand and my bag in other to avoid shaking women’s hands.”
Kheirnadish’s kiss was condemned by conservative Muslims as nothing more than an assault on public morality by the enemies of Islam.
Mohsen Talebpour, representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Kahmenei, organized a protest in Yazd and told the official Iranian news agency that, “Today the enemy has targeted our islamic beliefs.”
An editorial in weekly Iranian newspaper Ya Lessarat lamented that, “Our enemies are trying to harm Islam through our culture and this event is an example of that fact.”
As for the legal repercussions of the kiss, Zamini was arrested and then released on $2,500 bail while Kheirandish was expected to return to Yazd to turn herself in. In addition, a local Culture Ministry official who failed to immediately have Zaminie and Kheirandish arrested was himself arrested and charged as an accomplice and later released on $6,250 bail.
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson don’t have anything on these folks.
Kiss lands Iranian actress and director in court. Parisa Hafezi, Reuters, October 3, 2002.