A new video by expat Iranian pop star Googoosh has stirred up online debate by taking a stance against homophobia.
The 63-year-old chanteuse debuted her video for "Behesht" (which means heaven or paradise) on her Facebook page, which has over 1.5 million followers.
The poignant video, directed by Navid Akhavan, is shot from the camera POV of an offscreen character in a relationship with a woman.
The offscreen character, who is not revealed to also be a woman until the end of the video, is depicted giving romantic gifts, caressing, and holding hands with the onscreen character. The video is devoid of kissing or sexual content. The couple (portrayed by Pegah Ferydoni and Yasmine Azadi) faces homophobic encounters, such as being harassed by male transit riders and shunned by family.
While extremely modest by Western standards (and is certainly nowhere near the provocative content of Lady Gaga or Britney Spears videos), Googoosh's video has been hailed as groundbreaking by LGBT activists and allies while criticized and denounced by conservatives.
Homosexuality remains a crime in Iran, and is punishable by imprisonment and even execution.
Googoosh, who is not gay, rose to fame in Iran as an actor and pop singer from the 1950 to 1970s. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, she stopped performing due to the ban on singers. She finally left her homeland in 2000 and resumed her singing career abroad.
She was referenced in a poster in 2011 aimed at the Persian community made by the Vancouver-based Our City of Colours, which raises awareness of LGBT people in linguistic and cultural communities.
She also has performed in Vancouver several times, including in September 2013.