Friday, January 15, 2010

The Stoning of Soraya M

I am a fan of Irani movies. I find that the ancient Persian art of storytelling is not lost, but rather, rediscovered in motion picture. The directors and filmotographers are unfraid to use their skills to address society's defects. I remember the sweet story, Children of Heaven, that was one of the first Irani movies to be screened in western cinemas since the Islamic revolution. The film-makers don't shy away from explicit scenes to tell their tales. Oftentimes, the story is told without the need for dialogue because the visual experience becomes so vivid to the viewer - where words fail, the eyes fulfil.

Since the debut screening in 2008 at the Toronto Film Festival of the cinematic adaptation of the best-selling book, The Stoning of Soraya M, I have been wanting to see the movie. It was banned in Iran due to its implied criticism of the Irani Judicial System and viewers elsewhere were warned of its graphic depiction of stoning. Film critics said that not since The Passion of the Christ had there been such an explicit scene of execution.

The story, based on actual events, is set in a tiny Irani village where unscrupulous men with devious intent manipulate the community into believing their contorted tales in a plot to malign an innocent woman, accusing her of immoral behaviour.

The accusers devise a nefarious plot to be rid of her. They slander her as a wanton woman and then stand as judge, jury and executioners. The weak community plays easily into the hands of the devious schemers - even her aged father and young sons turn on her and are the first to cast stones. The weak system leaves no hope for justice, no room for defence - as with most accusations of adultery, only the woman is considered guilty, regardless of her proof of innocence (and in this case she hasn't even committed any crime).
Sadly, the Islamic requirement for four witnesses to have seen the actual sexual act before any accusation of adultery can be made seems to be insignificant and the absolute absence of any Quranic prescript for stoning is ignored. The mercy and compassion of Allah is replaced by barbaric mob injustice and the teachings of tolerance of the Prophet (may peace be upon him) are replaced by slander and defamation.

The explicit depiction of the stoning is hauntingly disturbing and leaves one flabbergasted. I cannot fathom the state of mind one would have to be in to cast a stone and murderously knock the life out of a person. That would surely be the most decrepit state any human being could sink to! And to do so in the name of God is blasphemous! What is particularly striking in the movie (pardon the pun) is Soraya's composure as she is led to her death pit. She doesn't get hysterical at the news of the verdict and is almost unsurprised.

I wouldn't rate this movie as excellent but I think it is a must see for anyone who wants to understand the savagery of this style of execution.

Sensitive viewers be warned. Click play at your own discretion. I have also included the official trailer, which doesn't have the stoning scene. Please ignore the foolish commentary by fox news presenters (what an awful broadcaster) but that was the only clip of the stoning scene i found on youtube.


Sid said...

Watched part of the Fox clip ... Most disturbing part is when the woman cheered at the stoning.

Wafa' said...

the movie is on my list, would watch it today probably. seems amazing :)

desert demons said...

sid, wafa, the fox news clip doesn't show the most gruesome parts of the stoning - it gets quite gory but please do watch the whole movie! It is available on many online sites. It is eye-opening and seeps into your conscience.

Anonymous said...

Here we have a possible liberal bourgeois or at least a middle class feminist in disguise trying to bash a system they can not understand from their narrow tunnel vision.

Or it might be those "progressive muslims" who have concocted a version of religion in the vision of the Empire, the ideal human being: white, heterosexual male.

Ladies the liberal values you speak of have all been established upon the blood and pity of millions. The liberal ideas of human rights and equality are a) exclusionary and b) concessions by the Empire to control the labor.

If you want to bash out at a criminal system of punishment, then the liberties you claim to have are guaranteed by the same violence. The house you live in is guarded by the threat of jails to those millions of the social majority excluded and living silently on the margins. The project of modernity, which defines your identity in the first two categories, is a project of compartmentalization and exclusion.

You are what you are because some one else is not what you are (I may sound way off the line, but please try reading it slow and again and again in the light of Frankfurt School). Stop your project of liberal ideas. You are not the savior of the earth. The existence of the categories of liberal ideas are a threat to the existence of human species.

Your liberties and consumerism is fed by child labor, built by concentration camps and the satisfaction is gained by the knowledge of some one not having/being what you have/are.

dead beats

Nooj said...

differences, which at first terrify, are actually fascinating

berber women in morocco flock to graveyards on the day after the death of a loved one, in their colourful plumes and wih their children in tow whereas in roshnee in south africa women are politely but firmly shooed out of the qabrastan

a firm believing woman wears a think sleeveless cotton dress with her hair covered in rural soshanguve, tilling a field to save her children from poverty whereas in modern saudi arabia a woman's nose is not to be seen

i would rather read the book, hte first trailer seemed almost romanticised

Sid said...

Hi. I told all my readers to head over to your site and read up on this issue. Hope you don't mind.

desert demons said...


and here you are with your class-infused hang ups trying to fit me into your little boxes and wanting me to be apologetic for what you have decided i probably am. If you have issues with the post, maybe you shouldn't hide behind your academic jargon, thinking yourself to be far more superior to the rest of us mortals.


books are so much more rewarding.


of course I don't mind! BTW - your adventure pics were stunning!

r a w said...

Nice article. Haven't seen the movie, but did read about it some time ago.

It's sad to see so many events happening in real life. People using religious laws or loopholes in the system, to enact their personal vendetta. Or, in this case, i read, the husband just wanted to marry a younger woman, and had to get rid of his wife.

I hope more and more movies like this are made, so people realise that someone, somewhere is destroying someone's life.

Keep up the good writing.

p.s: Isn't it funny how when someone wants to diss others, they hide behind anonymous nicknames? :-) My motto being, "Never feed the troll"

Anonymous said...

great and here is the proof for what MArx calls "false consciousness". I do not believe in structuralism, but I think we can not escape them. Try seeing how by discarding one sustem as oppresive and unfair you are just entering another system of western inspired higher morality which is as discriminating and dehumanizing as the structure you criticize. Please bear in mind the critique of structuralism : it is a de-humanizing and discriminating system.

Structures and its elements, hman rights and the discourse of right, the so called objective values are more important than the human face of emotions. Evaluate and understand the limitations of the structure og language. Language as a structure determines our thoughts and gives us desires. We can not help but what Lacan calls repeating the mistakes of our fathers".

I just want us as revolutionaries to escape the dominant logic. Be Existentialists. Create your own reality; your own language; your own discourse. Reject society and its oppressive system of sub-ordination. Accept your self as a social-out cast and then struggle against the system. Destroy every established order and then build a revolution from the ashes of the established order.

Then present your revolution to another revolution, so that our thoughts and ideas do not become oppressive. Let us leave revolution and the course of human emotions and subjective values bring the theory of perpetual revolution.

Viva la revolutionaro.

You guys as revolutionaries are against my theory and understanding of revolution. You are just killing the face of king, but the king will live. DEATH TO ALL BIG BROTHERS. ANARCHY. DESTABILIZE EVERYTHING.

Put your ideas to critique as well. Be true to your ideas of revolution. Do not elevate yourself to the pedastal of delphi. Remember when the oracle sof delphi called Plato the most intelligent person he refused to accept the oracle. Refuse to accept any thing.

Cremated Wolf.

M Junaid said...

I really wanted to watch it. Im not sure whether I could watch the stoning though - I watched a beheading video a few years ago and it was unnerving.

concerning hudud (as opposed to the presentation of it in this text) I have a preference for Prof Ramadans position where he calls for a moratorium on it