A woman is marched out of her small Iranian village, her arms are bound behind her back, and she is buried up to her waist in the sand. The villagers—including her own father, husband, and sons—fling stones at her, showing no sympathy or compassion as the blood runs down her face and soaks through her clothes. They stone her until they’re certain she’s dead, and then they leave her body on the ground for the wild dogs.
This is what audiences will see in the film The Stoning of Soraya M., made by the filmmaking team behind The Passion of the Christ. It opens in limited release on June 26. I haven’t given away any plot twists or surprises—the title of the film tells you all you need to know.
The Stoning of Soraya M. is based on a true story; in fact, you may have read the bestselling book when it came out in 1994. Journalist Freidoune Sahebjam was traveling through Iran when he came upon the village where Soraya had lived and died. He learned about Soraya and her cruel fate from her aunt.
Sahebjam’s book gave Soraya a voice from beyond the grave, making her a spokeswoman for all women who have suffered under radical Islam.
Soraya was 35 years old, a wife and mother of seven children, when her husband, Ghorban-Ali, decided to marry a 14-year-old girl. But it would cost him too much to support two families.
Soraya’s only crime was being what was called “an inconvenient wife,” for standing in the way of her husband’s second marriage. For that crime, Ghorban-Ali determined, she had to die. He brought a false accusation of adultery, and with the support of their friends, neighbors, and family, Soraya was sentenced to death.
Soraya’s story shocked the world when it was published. At that time, little was known in the outside world about a system that said that an accused wife had to prove her innocence, but if a husband were accused, his wife had to prove his guilt. We must remember that these grave injustices, like what happened to Soraya, are still happening today.
In a review of the movie, Carl Cannon writes, “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.” Cannon relates that she was accused of adultery, and that her age was given as 23.
However, according to Amnesty International, she was just 13. Cannon writes, “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.”
This is barbarism. And it’s the result of a belief system that ignores the humanity of every person. This is why Christians, who believe in the sanctity of every human life created in the image of God, must fight and keep fighting for the rights of women like Soraya and Aisha—and why we must open the eyes of the world to this dreadful inhumanity.