Starting last Friday, theaters across the country gave Americans a vivid, dramatic and most timely insight into the struggle now playing out in Iran. More importantly, the extraordinary new film, The Stoning of Soraya M., offers each of us a way to help the the Iranian people — and most especially the women — to free themselves from the theocratic repression with which they have been afflicted for the past 30 years.
The Stoning unflinchingly depicts an act of unimaginable brutality: a small Iranian town’s collective execution of a woman who became inconvenient to her faithless husband. Soraya M., however, is not just a victim of Shariah — the theo-political-legal program of authoritative Islam that makes a capital offense of adultery, the charge falsely leveled at this mother of four.
No, Soraya truly is an Everywoman under the mysogenistic, Shariah-adherent Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, not all of Iran’s females are stoned to death. But each of them must live every day with the knowledge that they can be abused and perhaps killed by their own men-folk or by the authorities for behavior deemed un-Islamic or otherwise proscribed.
New York Times columnist Richard Cohen, courageously reporting from Tehran, wrote movingly on Saturday of the plight of what he calls “Iran’s Second Sex.” His column concludes with this chilling paragraph:
“I asked one [Iranian] woman about her fears. She said sometimes she imagines an earthquake in Tehran. She dashes out but forgets her hijab. She stands in the ruins, hair loose and paralyzed, awaiting her punishment [for such a display of immodesty]. And she looked at me wide-eyed as if to say: Do you understand, does the world understand our desperation?”
Well, thanks to The Stoning, the world is being given a short-course on the desperation of Iran’s women — and that of others who are similarly afflicted. Remember the girls in Saudi Arabia a few years ago who were forced back into their burning school lest they be seen in public uncovered? Or the You Tube video of the young woman being flogged earlier this year in the Swat Valley for refusing to marry a Taliban capo? Or the innumerable Muslim women of Darfur gang-raped and sold into slavery for the crime of being black Sudanese, rather than Arab ones? Or, most recently, the video of Neda Agha-Sultan, the attractive young Iranian woman shot dead during a demonstration in Tehran by a police sniper who apparently singled her out for not being sufficiently modestly dressed.
Until now, most of us have paid little attention to these events, and countless others like them. Even similar events closer to home have gone largely unremarked: the systematic raping of Scandanavian and European women at the hands of Islamists, who are taught under Shariah to consider such infidels to be theirs for the taking; the Shariah-sanctioned “honor killings” of young girls and women in the West; and the diminished rights and freedoms enjoyed by Muslim females in enclaves in Britain and on the Continent where Shariah has been allowed to supplant the host countries’ laws.
It may be too much to hope that any one film will change such willful blindness to these virulently mysogenistic practices, let alone to the threat posed by Shariah’s adherents to homosexuals, Jews and atheists — let alone non-adherent Muslims, to say nothing of those judged to be “apostates.” Still, if one movie can make a difference, it will be The Stoning.
At the very least, it is a certitude that no one who sees The Stoning will ever be quite the same. The screenplay, brilliantly adapted by the husband-and-wife team of Cyrus and Betsy Nowrasteh from the true story captured by a Franco-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sadebjam and directed by Mr. Nowrasteh, cries out for justice. In fact, one of the film’s most gripping moments comes as its main protagonist, Zahra — Soraya’s irrepressibly courageous aunt — pleads with the reporter to “take my voice” and, by so doing, to tell the world of the crime perpetrated against her Everywoman niece.
Each of us can do something to maximize the impact of this movie — both in the West and in Iran — by helping make it a box-office success. The more people who see it during its first two-weekends, the more distributors will be confident of its appeal and the more theaters will carry it. That, in turn, will maximize the number of our countrymen and women who are equipped to challenge Shariah and efforts to insinuate it into the United States, whether by violent means or by stealth. And the more buzz about it here, the more likely it will be seen by audiences elsewhere, including (at least covertly) by Iranian ones.
In short, if each of us takes Zahra’s voice, if each of us makes the story she tells a rallying cry for all those who believe in freedom, we may just be able to help bring liberty to those like Soraya who have for far too long been utterly denied it — and, in some cases, their lives.
As it happens, an Iranian-American friend tells me that Neda – the name of the woman murdered by the mullahocracy some three decades after its system took the life of Soraya M. — roughly translates into “whisper” in English. We all have an interest in ensuring that these and other desperate women’s voices are amplified and heard, not silenced.