Controversy after US adult performer visits Iran

Whitney Wright, 32, visited Tehran last week and posted a picture of herself at the site of the former US embassy.

Tehran, Iran – An adult performer from the United States has stirred controversy after visiting Iran and going to the former US embassy in Tehran.

Whitney Wright, 32, from Oklahoma arrived in Iran last week and confirmed on her social media page on Monday that she had left the country.

She posted several pictures of her visit, including one that went viral and showed her – in a headscarf and unrevealing clothing required in Iran – standing next to a lowered US flag at the site of the country’s former embassy.

Iranian authorities have said the embassy was a “den of espionage” before its takeover in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and have since turned it into a museum. It is where embassy staff were held for 444 days, exacerbating hostilities that reverberate across Iran-US relations even now.

Wright wrote on her Instagram account that she was eager to visit the embassy along with other museums in Tehran and suggested the backlash and negative attention online she has received are extreme.

“I’m sharing exhibits from a museum that are never seen,” Wright wrote on Instagram. “It’s not an endorsement of the government.”

Some critics alleged that her visit highlights inconsistencies from the Iranian authorities.

Wright’s profession is considered “obscene” by Iranian authorities and could in theory lead to criminal charges.

Her visit came after Iran in 2022 and early 2023 saw some of the largest public protests and unrest since the 1979 revolution, triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old died in the custody of Iran’s morality police after being detained for alleged noncompliance with the mandatory hijab, which has been in force since shortly after the revolution.

The issues of being required to wear hijab by law and women’s freedom were at the centre of a lot of the protests. Iranian authorities have also engaged in a variety of efforts to enforce the hijab rules since the protests have died down.

Actor Setareh Pesiani referred to Wright’s visit to criticise the government’s mandatory headscarf policy.

“You punish people of this country in various methods for removal of hijab but you allow a porn actress to come here to tour Iran!?” Pesiani wrote on Instagram.

As a US citizen, Wright would have required a visa for her visit.

When asked about Wright’s visit during a weekly news conference on Monday, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said he had no information about her.

“Naturally, US citizens face no impediments in travelling to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iranian citizens are able to travel to the US. Whether those opportunities are equal can be judged separately,” he said.

“Whitney Wright was not invited to Iran by any organisation, travelled to Iran personally and after obtaining a visa, and the visa issuance system was not aware of the nature of her immoral and obscene work,” the semiofficial Tasnim news website quoted an unnamed “informed” source as saying on Monday.

Her visit to the embassy and Golestan Palace in Tehran were made as a regular visitor and without any invitations, it said.

The Associated Press news agency cited the US Department of State as saying it has warned American citizens to avoid travelling to Iran and “exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detention”.

In September, Iran and the US completed a prisoner exchange that was years in the making, swapping five Iranian prisoners held on charges of circumventing US sanctions on Iran for five US citizens held on charges of spying that Washington said were bogus.

The US and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, shortly after Washington severed the ties after the embassy takeover in Tehran.

Through her social media posts, Wright has consistently raised awareness about Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians so far, most of them women and children.

This is not the first time a visit to Iran by a Western adult performer has stirred controversy.

In 2016, British performer Candy Charms travelled to Iran to have plastic surgery on her nose, sparking outrage and receiving heavy backlash online.

“Love Tehran, the people are so kind and generous, really overwhelmed by the whole trip, the people are amazing,” she had written on her social media at the time.

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