A famous Iranian television presenter, known in Iran for holding strong conservative positions on things like women wearing the full veil, was snapped not only not wearing the veil, but also drinking a beer. People on Iranian social media criticised her virulently for her hypocrisy.
Azadeh Namdari is one of the most well-known presenters in the country. She's worked as a presenter for a number of different channels, and now presents a show on Aparat, the Iranian version of YouTube, called "Aban" (a month in the year between October and November on the Iranian calendar).
She's above all known for her staunch ideas regarding religion and conservative dress. She rigorously defended the wearing of the black chador, the long full-body veil, in the ultra-conservative newspaper Vatan-e-Emruz, saying that she was "proud" to wear it herself.
All of this until July 23, when photos and videos of her drinking beer, unveiled, in a park in Switzerland with her family were posted on the app Telegram. In Iran, women can only be unveiled in private, and alcohol is strictly forbidden (although Iranians can be pretty ingenious at getting around this last one).
The FRANCE 24 Observers team has been unable to work out who originally posted the photos. Online, Iranians are accusing her of being a fraud, and lying about her strong religious and political beliefs as a way of climbing up the television career ladder.
"What shocks Iranians is that she lied"
Wearing the hijab or not drinking alcohol is not a choice in Iran: it's a legal obligation. It's a very symbolic aspect of life in Iran, showing how the political class controls daily life in public spaces [Editor's note: the punishment for someone drinking alcohol in public can be up to 72 lashes].
This is why, very often, Iranians have two parallel lives: a public life, which follows the law, and another life that is more private, where they can behave like they really are. What we see in these photos, is the reality of these two parallel lives.
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"She lectured everyone without applying her
ideas to herself"
This isn't the first time that a photo or video has emerged showing a celebrity enjoying a parallel life. Lots of Iranian stars have been banned from the country over the last 40 years because of similar leaks. But for the Iranian public, drinking alcohol and not wearing the veil is hardly taboo – lots of them do it too, in private.
What shocks Iranians in the case of this journalist is that she lectured everyone on the lives they are supposed to lead, without applying the lessons to herself. Azadeh Namdari is a tool that the authorities use to promote the hijab and a strict Islamic way of life. By behaving like this, she proves that she lied.
For the moment, Iranian authorities haven't responded to the uproar. But the video shocked internet users so much that some of them even went so far as to research the brand of beer she is holding in the images.
The journalist tried to defend herself in a video
The day after the video was posted online, Azadeh Namdari tried to defend herself in a short video posted on social media: she says that she was with family in a private area, and that when the video and photos were taken, her veil had fallen off her head. She finished by asking people not to interfere in her personal life. However, she didn't say anything about the beer she was holding. Her response doesn't quite hold up: the scene definitely looks to be taking place in a public park – especially as you can see other people in the park behind her.
Iranian authorities are traditionally very strict with celebrities who don't follow the codes and of the Islamic Republic when they're out of the country. In March 2017 for example, a few members of the country's female snooker team were forbidden from playing for a year after they behaved "un-Islamically" during a tournament in China.