It all started with an Instagram post. The picture showed Candy Charms, a British porn star in the hijab and baggy clothing all women must wear by law in Iran. “Hey guys,” she wrote, “I have been on holiday in Iran. I only told my very close friends, as social networks and Twitter are banned so [it] was hard to communicate but I’m back now.”

Charms is 27. She started her porn career four years ago.

She wrote about her good memories of Iran and its people. “Loved Tehran,” she wrote. “The people are so kind and generous. Really overwhelmed by the whole trip. The people are amazing. Even when people don’t have much they will do anything for you. Really puts your own life in perspective.” But she could never have guessed just how many followers she would gain as a result of her post, or how many comments news of her visit would generate. Within a few short hours, she received approximately 40,000 comments from Iranians.

Most of the comments were in Persian. Despite Charms’ acknowledgement of Iranians’ fabled hospitality, many of them were not terribly elevated and some were mean-spirited. “We could have gone to a coffee shop if you had just let us know,” wrote Hamid. “What was a slut like you doing in my country?” wrote Nasser. Some commenters, predictably, commented on her physique. “If you sat in front of the cab there would have been no need for airbags,” Ali joked.

Some social media users grabbed the chance to attract new followers. “Yes, she was in Iran,” wrote Neda. “I saw her on Tabi’at Overpass and took pictures of her. If you want to see those pictures go to my page.” Sadegh offered bigger bait. “I have a five-minute video of her in her hotel,” he teased. “I will post the video on my page for 10 minutes before removing it. If you want to watch it, go to my page.” The hashtag “#CandyCharms” raged like a wildfire across Instagram, Twitter and other social networks.

Nose Job Mecca

Candy Charms soon satisfied her followers’ curiosity as to what she was doing in the Islamic Republic and ignited a round of debates in the process. She linked her Twitter account to her Instagram page and wrote, “my nose was not straight and they are the best in the world in nose surgery. I had my nose done.”

That was a convincing reason. “Iran ranks first in the world in the field of cosmetic nose surgery,” Dr. Ebrahim Razmpa, President of the Fifth International Rhinology Conference of Iran, told Mehr News last year. “Since the quality of surgeries is high and the prices are low, not only Iranians inside the country but also many applicants from various countries…come to Iran.”

Some commenters claimed Dr. Amir Hossein Nasseri  had operated on Candy Charms. If true, it might explain why Dr. Nasseri has made his Instagram page private, as he could become the target of hostile comments. IranWire tried to contact Dr. Nasseri without success.

Many social media users have asked why nobody noticed that a porn star was in Iran. Some pointed out that on the streets of Tehran, it would have been impossible to distinguish her from other Iranian women — a view her self-portrait tends to confirm. “Her picture with a headscarf is so common-looking that unless you see her pictures [taken] outside Iran you would not notice that she is not [an Iranian],” one user wrote. Another user replied, “They say that the girls in their country [Iran] look exactly like this porn star. What they forgot to say is that they would just go crazy over such a girl.”

Journalists Out, Porn Star In

On her Instagram page, Charms thanked a friend for helping her arrange an Iranian visa. This led to more questions from commenters: Why did the Islamic Republic give a visa to a porn star when so many journalists and human rights activists cannot even return to their own country? “In Iran, they would leave you alone if you are not a journalist, a seditionist [supporter of 2009 presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi], a critic, a filmmaker, or a human rights activist,” one person tweeted, “even if you are a porn star.”

The debate soon turned political. Several commenters mentioned Hassan Abbasi, the hardliner lecturer who is well known for his outlandish remarks about “western infiltration” corrupting Iran. They wrote that Candy Charms’ visit would provide him ample ammunition for the foreseeable future.

Hassan Ghashghavi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, said that Candy Charms, who is British, used her real name when applying through Iran's electronic visa system. Also, he said, "Our colleagues are not supposed to know that kind of woman. It would be counterproductive if they did."

Alas, Charms' Iranian adventure has not ended happily. She received so many strange and offensive comments on social media within 10 hours that she regretted having shared news of her visit to Iran, and removed her post. 

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