Stoning of Soraya M: Her story and ours

I have been wanting to read this bestseller book for years but never had the chance. It first came out in the early 90s, written by French- Iranian Journalist Freidoune Sahebjam. Originally titled La Femme Lapidee (Woman Stoned), this book is a true story based on the radical practice of stoning women in modern Iran. It was translated into a full length movie in 2008 and won awards in the international arena. My heart skipped a beat when I saw this in Netflix’s roster of foreign movies two weeks ago. Produced by the same people behind “Passion of Christ”, expect riveting scenes, bloodshed, and emotive cinematography.

The setting was in the mid- 80s when a young woman named Soraya Manutchehri was accused of adultery by her egotistical, abusive, and influential husband Ghorban-Ali. The latter wanted to divorce Soraya so he can marry a 14-year old girl but refused to provide financial support to Soraya and their kids. Ali consulted the village mullah (a religious leader) to convince Soraya to agree with the divorce. The mullah’s proposal was rather blunt and indecent- make Soraya his lover so he  can provide for her and the children. Soraya refused. And that’s where the plot begun.

Following the death of a close friend, Ali and the mullah set up Soraya to work for the widower as his “maid”. In need of financial resources, Soraya took the job. Ali saw this as the perfect opportunity to create an unpardonable offense in Iran: Adultery. Death by stoning. Women are buried up to their neck and men threw stones at them until their last sign of life. Gore. Abominable. 

Modern day Islamic activists oppose this inhuman practice. Sunni Islam does not advocate stoning  of humans. But when you commit adultery, you are no longer considered human. (Read more, click here). Soraya was accused by her husband Ali that she was having an affair with her employer, the widower. There is only one way to get rid of Soraya- prove to the village mayor that she was unfaithful to him so the death sentence can be enacted soon. The widower, afraid of the consequences, was forced to lie and side with Ali and mullah’s accusation.

Ali’s plot was a success. The crowd, composed mostly of males, were ready to stone Soraya. The first one who cast was Soraya’s own father. Then her two young sons. The last and final blow, the demon Ali. Lifeless, Soraya was buried by her aunt Zarah, who happened to be the storyteller in the movie.

La Femme Lapidee mirrors the life of modern-day women who still suffer abuse from their husbands or partners. Emotional, mental, physical. Bruised. Burned. Killed. In the US, 3 women are murdered by an intimate partner everyday. About 4.8 million women were victims of battery and violence by their partners (For complete facts, click here). 4 out of 10 women in Turkey are beaten by their husbands, and an astounding 90 percent don’t seek out help (Story here). In 2009, Japan reported 73,000 cases of domestic abuse versus 68,000 in 2008 (Facts from here). Domestic violence cuts across culture, socio-economic class, even religion. For as long as women are treated second class citizens, this abuse will not stop. 

Love and respect for others start at home. Abuse is a cycle. An attacker may be abused as a child.

Love and self- respect start at home. If your children see you all black and bruised, would you tell them that it is a wife’s role to take all the blows? 

Love. Respect for others. Self-respect. They all start at home. 

Think about it. 

*Scroll to see book and movie versions of Soraya M.

Don’t be the next victim.

Stoning of Soraya M (Book)

Stoning of Soraya M (Movie)

Stoning of Soraya M (Trailer)


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