Following on the heels of the recent International Women’s Day comes the DVD release of the remarkable and unforgettable film The Stoning of Soraya M. Based on the true story of a woman falsely accused of infidelity and stoned to death for it under Iran’s post-Islamic Revolution Khomeini regime, Soraya stands as condemnation of a barbaric punishment that, astoundingly, continues there today.
Soraya justifiably made numerous critics’ top ten 2009 film lists (including those of NRB’s David Swindle and Chris Yogerst - and reviewed here by Yogerst) and racked up a raft of awards, including, most recently, the NAACP Image Award for Best Foreign Motion Picture. And now it is becoming an underground hit and an inspiration in a country on the verge of a new revolution.
Not that this has inspired a feminist change of heart among Iran’s Islamofascist authorities. In ironic and brazen confirmation of their contempt for women’s rights, they have prevented Simin Behbahani, a prominent female poet and activist known as “the lioness of Iran“, from traveling to Paris to attend an event celebrating International Women’s Day.
Despite illness and advanced age (she is in her 80s), Behbahani nonetheless felt compelled to go to Paris because:
my passion and commitment to my country’s women… pushed me to take part in this ceremony to read a poem and talk about feminism.
Unfortunately for her and her country’s women, the clerics in Iran have a tad more passion and commitment to raging misogyny than to poetry and open discussions of feminism – a misogyny they justify by claiming that Iranian women are treated better and more respected than their Western counterparts, who are all reduced to being prostitutes, Hooters waitresses, or extras on Entourage.
Except that the Iranian authorities don’t so much place women on a pedestal as they do bury them in a pit and pulverize them with stones, like Soraya M., or rape and execute them to punish dissent, or haul them into jail for indecent Western hairstyles. I doubt that even the most under-tipped Hooters employee would want to trade in her Western sexual oppression for that kind of respect.
So don’t count on Iran making International Women’s Day a national holiday, as it is in such feminist Shangri-Las as China and Russia, anytime soon. For the time being, The Stoning of Soraya M. sits on Iran’s banned films list, and Ms. Behbahani sits on Iran’s no-fly-to-feminist-conferences list. But both stand, in their own way, as proud testaments against an Islamic regime that bears a positively medieval hatred toward women.