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The stoning of Soraya


Last night I watched for the first time the heartrending film called ‘The stoning of Soraya.' I am still feeling the pain in my heart which I felt as I watched this film. Set in a small village in Iran in 1986, the film depicts the implementation of the Islamic Sharia law which requires that a woman be stoned for committing adultery. To say the least the film simply touched my heart.

The film captured the life of Soraya, a woman whose sole reason for dying was the fact that her cruel husband wanted to get rid of her. Initially he wanted a divorce but she could not grant him the divorce because she needed to protect her children by ensuring that they were provided for. If she had gotten the divorce then her husband would have only needed to take care of their two sons but not the two daughters and the wife because women in Soraya’s village were not considered important. A divorced woman and her daughters were not entitled to any benefits or care from the husband after the divorce. So Soraya stayed in the marriage for her children.

She bore so much abuse from her husband. He would hit her and a humiliate her in front of her children. He turned her eldest son against her so much that the son disrespected his own mother. At some point he even wanted to hit her. Soraya’s husband had an affair which he did not even try to hide and because he wanted to marry this new woman in his life he plotted her murder. He convinced her aunt to talk to her about getting a job with one of the widowed men in the village as a housekeeper.

Soraya would go to the man’s house to clean for him and cook. She then became friends with this man and his son because they treated her with respect. Her husband would follow her and watch everything she did. On two occasions he saw her talking to the man she worked for in what ‘appeared’ to be private and intimate conversations. From these two incidences he accused her of having the intention to cheat on him which is considered to be adultery in itself.
He blackmailed Soraya’s employee to be the second witness against her on charges of adultery because the law demanded that there be two witnesses. Witnesses to what I asked myself as I watched this film- suspicion of having the intention to commit adultery? Really, is that a crime?

But unfortunately for Soraya that was enough to send her to her death. She was charged and was found guilty. The trial was held in her absence. She was not asked to defend herself. To make matters worse, as the accused she was required to prove her innocence. Should it not be the way of justice that the one who accuses should prove the guilt of the one who is accused?

Soraya was condemned to death by stoning. I cannot take off my mind the images of that woman as she bade goodbye to her two little daughters. I cannot forget her quiet strength as she walked to her point of death. I can never forget the look in her eyes as she stood before her community and asked them “How can you do this to me. I was your neighbour, your friend, your daughter, your mother, your wife. I cleaned your houses. I was with you and you act as if you do not know who I am.”

I can see her hands being tied behind her back. I can see the people placing her in a pit they dug for her. They forced her to kneel in the pit and buried half her body while she was still alive. They left her shoulders and head uncovered. They wanted the most sensitive parts of her the head to be hit. They wanted to hit her in the areas where the most damage and pain could be caused because this ‘whore’ had brought disgrace to her community, her family and her husband.

I can hear the chants as the crowd shouted “Allah hu Akbar" (meaning, God is great) as they threw the stones. I can still see the stones as they were hurled against her, one after the other, blood gashing off her forehead, deep wounds inflicted on her beautiful face. They stoned her to death. The man she was supposed to have committed adultery with was even given stones to throw at her so that he could ‘reclaim’ his honour. One after the other the stones flew, she screamed, cried, groaned and mourned until her voice and strength ebbed away and she died.

They would not let her be buried with honour. Her body was discarded beside a river. The next morning the remains of her body which the dogs had left behind was all that her aunt could bury. And so ended Soraya’s life.

This film brought home to me the fact that there are so many other Sorayas and potential Sorayas out there. Maybe one of them is facing the same fate even as I write. Islamic Sharia is still being practised in many states and despite governments’ denial that death by stoning is still being meted out as a punishment the reality is that it is happening. Stories from Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq recording incidences of stoning have been reported.

In 2011 the following cases reached mainstream media; in January Siddqa a 25 year old Afghani woman was stoned together with her boyfriend after she had eloped to be with him, running away from an arranged marriage in which she had been sold for $9000 against her will. In May, Katya Koren a 19 year old Muslim girl from Crimea in Ukraine was stoned to death under 'Sharia law' after taking part in a beauty contest. In June, Fazia a Pakistani woman from the village of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was stoned to death by her husband and his friends for allegedly having an affair with his brother. These are the stories that made it into the global news sphere but the possibility of more discreet killings having taken place cannot be ruled off.

The other Sorayas are victims of domestic violence globally. The wives whose husbands batter them into pulp each day because they have found someone newer and younger. The women with the broken limbs, the scars on their bodies, black eyes on their faces and hearts heavy with pain and regret.

Many powerful voices have already spoken against these practices but I felt compelled to add my own because watching this film I felt a sense of responsibility to shed the light and share the pain on how some womenfolk suffer in the name of religion. They suffer to death trapped in marriages that bring them grief every day of their lives. How I wish our society could release them from this bondage.

*The film is based on a true story as written by French Journalist Jim Caviezel and the experience he had in Iran*



Chinemu's picture

The stoning of soraya

I have read with article with great pain, MaDude you are right, even in todays society women are still stoned. Not stonning per say but there is alot of injustices towards women.
great article, I love it

MaDube's picture

Re: The Stoning of Soraya

Dear sis

It is one thing to hear that these things happen but it is another thing altogether to actually see it happening.
The film moved me because I identified with Soraya's character as she represents so many women out there who will stay in marriages thinking that they can protect their children and end up getting killed through beatings, or cold blooded murder and these days with HIV/AIDS they can get infected and without medication lose their lives. I am a cry-baby but anyone watching this film would have wept as I did when I watched it.


zoneziwoh's picture

Re:The stoning of soraya

That sounds extremely bad. i feel so terrible. I have not watch the film and will google for it - i do hope it is on Youtube. That is bad!!

thank you dear fro sharing this piece with us and i love the analysis you made with today's husband battering.

Stay Blessed



Facebook:Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo Wondieh

Twitter | Instagram: @ZoFem

MaDube's picture

Re: The Stoning of Soraya

It moved me beyond words and I just had to share it.

Carlotta's picture


You are very brave to have watched a film like that. I really would have struggled. What justice is there if people stone one half of the adulterous couple, why not stone the man as well? I dont think any consenting adult should be stoned for making their own decisions, even though i'm against prostitution. And for an innocent woman to die like that is very heartbreaking. And i so love Jim Caviezel, especially in The Count of Monte Cristo!!

MaDube's picture


It was heartbreaking watching the film. I kept hoping they would actually not carry it through but they did, the barbarians. I failed to see how they could calmly go back to their homes and carry on with their lives as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened when they had just ended an innocent life. And yes it is hard to believe that these things are happening in 2011 but they are still happening and that just makes me so angry!

ArtByMia's picture

So Sad

Thank you for posting this review and your wonderful heartfelt comments. To think that it is 2011 and this type of crime against women is still happening. We have come far but not far enough and the struggle for equality stiil goes on strong. It is with people as yourself using your voice and passion to bring awareness to such horrific crimes against women. I want to thank you again for sharing and posting this!

Blessings, Mia

MaDube's picture

Thanks goes to you Mia for

Thanks goes to you Mia for reading the post. You know the thing is we know that terrible things are happening out there, terrible things being done to women but when you see or hear a personal account and connect the abuse to an individual that is when it usually dawns on you exactly how terrible these things are. I felt compelled to share this movie because it shows how unfair the practice is on women, how inhuman the whole act is and how it can be abused. If you tell people death by stoning is a harmful cultural practise they will say 'ok' but when you tell them the story of Soraya, they see it and figure it out themselves that this practice needs to end. Anyone who thinks it is good has no heart.

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