Sumera B. Reshi
“The Stoning of Soraya” movie is an explicit depiction of horrors inflicted on an innocent woman in a village in Iran as she rejects her husband’s forced divorce, tribal traditions and the use of Islamic laws by the men for their personal gains. However, all over the world people accuse Islam and Sharia and often call it Islamic fundamentalism.
In history, one can unearth the brutalities incurred by Christians, Jews and Hindu’s on women. And their brutalities go unreported due to biased media reportage. In the past, many women free-thinkers were executed by the Catholic Church.
In the history of the US, women campaigners were accused of being witches and were burned for the sin they never committed. These are all the social and traditional norms which have nothing to do with religion. Soraya also became the victim of her husband’s greed, her traditional norms and the society she lived in.
The movie starts with the entry of Freidoune who is an Iranian-born French journalist. Freidoune drives the car but his car gets some technical fault. His eyes catch the sight of a messy and shabby looking garage and a man called Hashim who repair the cars and other mechanical devices with minor faults. While talking to Hashim regarding his car, Freidoune is confronted by Zahra (Shohreh Aghdashloo and is Soraya Aunty in the movie).
The moment Zahra sees Freidoune (journalist) she is desperate to meet him, talk to him and reveal to him what happened in the village which looked calm and cool the next day. Zahra realized that the long and lanky man who asked Hashim to repair his car is a writer. Very smartly Zahra gets an opportunity to talk to the Iranian-French journalist and more so she succeeded in making him believe that her story is worth to be written down and to be told to the outer world.
Thus Zahra started to narrate the tale of an incident which had happened just one day ago. Zahra invited the journalist (Freidoune) to her house stealthily and while lighting a cigarette, she presented the recount of the incident that she shattered her from inside. Soraya was married to Ali (Navid Negahban) for 20 years and had two sons and two daughters. Mostly the sons followed their father and daughters their mother Soraya. Ali was employed in a jail as a guard and was a philanderer. In the jail, there was a doctor who did some crime and was about to be prosecuted. With the help of Ali, the doctor sought a safe route from the jail and in return, Ali demanded money and the doctor’s 14-year old daughter as his wife.
Ali was happy that he got what he wanted. His eyes were steadily on that young girl and in his heart of hearts, he was dreaming of an urban life. But in his path, Soraya was a barricade. Firstly Ali tried to coerce Soraya himself by some lofty offers but Soraya rejected his mean offers because she knew the evil designs of Ali.
Ali sought the help of the Mayor and a local cleric (Ali Pourtash) to convince Soraya for a divorce. Ali wanted to divorce Soraya by taking the custody of his two sons while he wanted to give daughters to Soraya. It was too difficult for Soraya to meet her expenses in a village where the chances of employment were meagre. The cleric while convincing Soraya offered temporary marriage to Soraya but Soraya and her Aunt Zahra rejected his filthy plan. Thus, the cleric (local mullah) pledged to take revenge and left Soraya’s home with rage.
As ill luck would have it, Soraya’s friend and Hashim’s (garage mechanic) wife died. She left a boy and her husband Hashim alone. Cleric and the locals insisted Soraya to perform household chorus for Hashim and his son and in return, he will provide money. Soraya after much insistence and deliberations agreed.
While Soraya’s plan was to earn a living for herself and the family, Ali’s intentions were nefarious. Ali got an opportunity in disguise. He hatched a plan along with the Cleric of accusing his wife Soraya of adultery. In due course of time Ali coerced cleric, Mayor, Soraya’s father and other neighbors to sentence Soraya to death by stoning. Soraya was caged in such a way that she, her two daughters and Zahra were left with little recourse.
Ali and his cohorts threatened Hashim if doesn’t comply with them, he will lose his only son. Not knowing what to do, Hashim fell into the trap. He accused Soraya of adultery. Behold! That was a lucky moment for Ali. Soraya was taken in a ground, her body half buried inside the crest of the earth and rest of her body was kept over the ground so that she could be stoned to death for the crime she never committed. She bore all the humiliation for the sin she didn’t ever think of. Worst moment was when her father declared that Soraya no longer was his daughter and the first stone was thrown by him on Ali’s insistence. Then Soraya’s two sons threw stones towards her. Zahra and other women watched the drama of male chauvinism without any revolt. They knew they have no say. They only beat their chests because they knew Soraya was innocent.
Meanwhile, Hashim refused to throw the stone towards Soraya and admitted that the cleric and Ali threatened him with brute action if he didn’t listen to them. It was a heart-wrenching scene. Soraya all drenched in blood and her eyes seeking an entry into the paradise. Worst was when her body was offered to vultures and the next day Zahra, aunt collected remains of her bones and cried over the incident and her helplessness.
The movie “The Stoning of Soraya” is an adaptation of the French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s book La Femme Lapidee. The movie is an American Persian drama made in 2008 and directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh and the lead role was performed by Shohreh Aghashloo who played the role of Zahra in the movie. Soraya’s role was played by Mozhan Marno and James Caviezel played the role of the journalist. The movie was a success at box office and has won Director’s Choice Award in 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and was second runner-up for the Cadillac People’s Choice Award, however, the movie is banned in Iran.