|Saturday, 16 January 2010 16:42|
Born: Circa 1950, Iran
Died: August, 1986. Kupayeh, Iran
Cause of death: Head wounds arising from public ritual stoning.
Notable because: Soraya is a powerful reminder of the importance of tolerance of islam. A 35 year old Iranian wife and mother of 9, whose husband wants rid of her, is accused of adultery in Sharia Court, and buried waist deep while the men of the village take turns to stone her to death for the benefit of her husband personal agenda. The movie 'The stoning of Saraya M' is based on her story.
Soraya Manutchehri, a 35-year-old mother of seven who, in her own prophetic words, had become "an inconvenient wife." Bartered away in an arranged marriage at 13 to a petty criminal named Ghorban-Ali, who was 20 years old at the time, Soraya bore nine children over the next two decades, enduring two stillborn births and regular beatings from her husband, along with his insults, his consorting with prostitutes, and his campaign to turn her two oldest sons against her.
On August 15, 1986, with the complicity of a local mullah (who had been imprisoned for child molesting under the Shah), Ghorban-Ali decided to get rid of his wife.
In the anarchic days of the Iranian Revolution, Ghorban-Ali had found work as a prison guard in a neighboring town. There, he met a 14-year-old girl whom he wanted to marry. Polygamy was encouraged in Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, but Ghorban-Ali didn't want to support two families and did not desire to return his wife's dowry. How to rid himself of his "old" wife? Accuse her of infidelity. No matter that her husband had not actually seen anything untoward, or that Soraya was completely innocent, or that her husband's cynical accusations were only backed up by his cousin, who as it turned out had been coerced into concurring with the vaguest of accusations: a smile here, a brushed hand there.
The local "sharia" court duly convicted Soraya. The sentence was death-death by stoning.
The son of a former Iranian ambassador, French-Iranian journalist and war correspondent Freidoune Sahebjam was the first to report on the crimes of the Iranian government against the Bahá'í community in Iran. He was traveling through Iran, when he came upon Soraya's village, where he learned about Soraya and her cruel fate from her aunt, Zahra Khanum.
His riveting and spare account became an international best-seller. Critics compared "The Stoning of Soraya M." to Kafka, but actually nothing in the western canon of literature is comparable to the inadvertent self-parody -- the simple lunacy -- of a system of law that maintains that if a man is accused of infidelity by his wife, she must prove his guilt, but if a woman is accused, she must prove her innocence. Thus, in a single sentence, is a belief system codified. It is a system that rejects modernity, justice, equality and rationality -- and treats female sexuality as a vice.
Such show trials pay no heed to the rights we presume to be universal in the 21st century: The right to be present at your own trial, to testify in your own defense, to cross-examine the witnesses against you, to be represented by counsel, to have an impartial arbiter of fact, to appeal the judgment to higher courts. None of these were present in rural Iran in the drunken days of "the Islamic Revolution." For women and girls in Iran and in many other parts of the globe they are not present today.
The verdict against Soraya M., was carried out in a village called Kupayeh, but it could have been almost anywhere in rural Iran. It could happen, and does still, in Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, or anyplace where sharia is the law of the land. More common, by far, in the Muslim world is the perverse practice of "honor killings" -- the slaying of a woman or girl by male members of her own family on the basis of some presumed sexual indiscretion. The barbarity of this practice is mirrored by its Orwellian description, for it is one of the most dishonorable practices in the world.
Soraya M's brutal execution occurred more than two decades ago, but it was only last October that a girl barely into her teens was stoned to death in a stadium in the Somalian port city of Kismayo. Initially, her "crime" was said to be adultery, and her age given as 23.
Actually, according to Amnesty International, she was 13 years old, and she came into the custody of an Islamic militia when she had the temerity to report to authorities that she had been gang-raped. Her three attackers were not charged. The girl was publicly murdered before 1,000 cheering spectators. Her name was Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow.
When packs of bearded men shout "God is Great" while disfiguring women with unspeakable brutality we each form our own views on Islams merits, tolerance and political correctness.
(Pics of Soraya are stills from the movie featuring Shohreh Aghdashloo)
|Last Updated on Saturday, 16 January 2010 17:16|