A Woman in Iran
The Stoning of Soraya M
What is life like in Iran? How are women treated? And why at this moment are thousands of young people, both men and women, demonstrating in the streets against the rigid regime that has ruled this country for years?
Some of the answers to these questions can be found in an unusual movie that will open in theaters across American on June 26. It is called The Stoning of Soraya M, and it was the runner-up to Slumdog Millionaire as the audience favorite at the Toronto Film Festival.
The movie is based on an international best-seller, published in 1994, which first brought global attention to the real Soraya. In 1986 this innocent and defenseless woman was buried to her waist in her hometown square in a small village in Iran and stoned to death by her neighbors. The book about her was written by Paris-based journalist Freidoune Sahebjam. He was told the tragic tale of what happened to Soraya by her aunt Zahra, who defied threats to share the story. He went on to investigate and pieced together a blistering account of how her husband, having fallen in love with another girl (a 14-year-old), conspired with the local mullah, himself a former criminal and con man, to accuse Soraya of infidelity.
The evidence was flimsy and largely fabricated, and in the proceedings everything was stacked against Soraya, a simple, honest woman. Despite the lack of any real proof, and without a chance to defend herself, an all-male tribunal declared Soraya guilty and ordered her executed under the dictates of ancient law. The movie tells the story and also shows the horrors of Soraya’s last tragic day.
The movie was directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, who also wrote the screenplay with his wife Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh. Nowrasteh is best known for writing and directing the ABC-Tv series The Path to 9/11. The Academy Award nominated, Iranian-born star Shohreh Aghdashloo, who appeared in The House of Sand and Fog, stars in the movie as Zahra. The movie was shot in a small hamlet in an undisclosed Arab nation.
The book and the movie portray a time right after the Mullahs took control in fundamentalist post-revolutionary Iran. But the scourge of stoning and other brutal punishments of women continue today in many countries. Accurate statistics are hard to come by, but reports suggest that over the past 15 years, there have been at least 1,000 women stoned to death, primarily for marital or sexual violations, in a number of countries – including Iran, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, the United Nations estimates that some 5,000 women each year, even some in the U.S., become victims of so-called “honor killings,” in which family members kill a woman who has allegedly brought dishonor on them through such acts as dressing provocatively or engaging in illicit sex.
One can only believe that the angry crowds in the streets of Tehran today, who are vehemently disputing the results of the recent election, do not want a continuation of a hate-filled repressive time in Iran where tragedies like the stoning of Soraya can occur.
The movie will be shown in theaters in large cities across the country. To find out where it is being shown check out www.thestoning.com. Also, here are some organizations deeply committed to protecting the human rights of women:
Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org
The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women: www.stop-stoning.org
The International Campaign Against Honour Killings: www.stophonourkillings.com
The International Committee Against Stoning: www.stopstonningnow.com
Stop Stoning Forever (an Iran-based Group): www.meydaan.com/english/default.aspx