Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Stoning of Soraya M

Instrument of Torture.

American born film director Cyrus Nowrasteh saw his movie The Stoning of Soraya (2008) as part of a worldwide battle against prejudice and injustice, a good deal of the time affecting women. The powerful, moving and horrifying events depicted in this film give us privileged westerners a chance, as awful as it is, to witness the reality of a public execution by stoning.

The film is based on Freidoune Sahebjam 1990 book La Femme Lapiee. Soraya Manutchehris husband Ali was an ambitious man, prone to fits of rage. He wanted a way out of his marriage in order to marry a 14-year-old girl but did not want to support two families or return Soraya’s dowry.  At the request of the village Soraya began cooking for a recently widowed man and his mentally retarded son. Ali found a way to achieve his goal by accusing his wife of adultery, a crime in Iran that warrants a death sentence. Abetted by corrupt village authorities this innocent woman was convicted, buried up to her waist and stoned to death by the village which included Ali, his two young sons and Soraya’s father.

Soraya goes to her death.
It was when the French/Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam car broke down near a small rural village in 1986 that a local woman Zahra approached him insisting that he relate the barbaric story of her niece to the outside world.

The execution is a truly horrifying watch and the film can’t be classed as entertainment but it does highlight in a very forthright way the violations that to this day still take place in various parts of the world. I include below a section from the press notes that were released along with the film which you may interesting.

The powerful events depicted in THE STONING OF SORAYA M. are likely to inspire audiences to want to learn more about the issues of stoning, honor killings and the persecution of women around the world. As the first film drama to offer a stirring and eye-opening glimpse into the reality of public stoning’s, THE STONING OF SORAYA M. has been embraced by advocates for human and women’s rights as a way to raise consciousness about the plight of women at risk of abuse, injustice and death in legal systems stacked against them.

Stoning is perhaps the most ancient form of execution, one that has been referred to throughout the historical record, and carried out by member of many different religions in antiquity. In contemporary times, it has been associated with countries of the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa that follow Sharia law, which proposes stoning as a punishment for such offenses as illicit sex and infidelity. (While stoning is more often used against women, men are also still publicly stoned for offenses including adultery and homosexuality.) In some countries, stoning remains part of the official penal code, while in others authorities turn a blind eye to stoning as a local practice. In all cases, the United Nations considers stoning a form of torture.

13 year-old being stoned to death.
In 2002, the United States Congress condemned execution by stoning, noting, “women around the world continue to be disproportionately targeted for discriminatory, inhuman and cruel punishments.” Yet, with too little attention focused on these cases, shocking stories continue to mirror that of Soraya M. in the movie. For example, in 2008, a 13 year-old Somali girl was stoned by 50 men in front of a crowd of 1000 – for the crime of having been raped. The BBC reported that the girl begged for her life, pleading “don’t kill me, don’t kill me” before being buried in a hole up to her neck. The BBC report continues: “According to Amnesty International, nurses were sent to check during the stoning whether the victim was still alive. They removed her from the ground and declared that she was, before she was replaced so the stoning could continue.”
A number of organizations are deeply committed to the fight for the fair and humane treatment of women under all legal systems, including such international groups as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Additional web resources include:

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women:
The International Campaign Against Honour Killings:
The International Committee Against Stoning:
Stop Stoning Forever (an Iran-based Group):
KAFA (Lebanese-based Women’s Advocacy):
The Network Against Honour Related Violence:
Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan:

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