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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Honor Killings

Published on Sep 25, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

The Stoning of Soraya M in Iran

Not America's Fault


Phyllis Chesler's Speech for the Women United 9/25 Rally Protesting Ahmadinejad and his Christian Supporters. 5:30pm NYC, across the Street from the Grand Hyatt Hotel, East 42nd St and Lexington Ave.

I wish I could be with you in person this evening but, given my recently implanted titanium steel hip, my days of street rallies may be over. But I am with you in spirit and have sent a colleague to cover the rally for me.

I congratulate you all: the inspired and hard-working rally organizers, the speakers, and those who have gathered here to protest the nuclear, misogynist, genocidal, and barbaric policies of Iran whose public face is That Man–Ahmadinejad–the mullahs' little errand boy.

You are also here to protest the so-called Christian groups who have assembled inside the hotel to honor this modern day Hitler. They should be ashamed of themselves. However, let me remind us: 55,000 other Christians from 128 nations have demanded that the UN arrest and indict Ahmadinejad over his threats to Israel. (God bless them).

Khomeini killed more Iranians in his first month in office than the demonized Shah ever did during his entire thirty eight year reign. And the killing has never stopped, it has only gathered steam both in Iran and abroad, in all the places where Iran sponsors terrorism against civilians. But I have learned that people find it hard to emotionally comprehend large death counts which numb and terrify us.

So, let me tell you a story about one tragic incident that took place in that cursed country in the summer of 1986. Telling this story and listening to it is a way of mourning, and of bearing witness. Iranian expatriate journalist Freidoune Sahebjam resurrected the facts for us in his jewel of a book, The Stoning of Soraya M which is now also a film which stars the great Iranian expatriate actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo. Sahebjam writes that in contemporary Iran, "being born female is both a capital crime and a death sentence."

The book is a haunting and carefully rendered account of how, on August 15, 1986, a thirty-five-year-old woman was stoned to death in Kupayeh, Iran. Soraya, (peace be upon her), was lynched and stoned to death by the villagers with whom she had lived all her life. Her own father, her two sons, and her greedy, heartless criminal of a husband, Ghorban-Ali, all threw the first stones.

How did this happen? When Soraya was only thirteen, an arranged marriage with the twenty-year-old Ghorban-Ali took place. Soraya was docile, obedient, and fertile. She did everything uncomplainingly. Her husband routinely insulted, beat, and then abandoned her and their children; he also consorted with prostitutes and brought them into the marital bed. Soraya dared not say a word. A "complaining" wife is easy to divorce.

Ghorban-Ali had begun to work with a group of extortionist mullahs in some distant towns and had been well rewarded. He "did not want to live any longer" with Soraya, who had become a "silent, resigned woman who was old before her time and, what was worse, completely above reproach." Ghorban-Ali had a new wife picked out, and although he could now afford many houses, he wanted his old mud house back. For him to get it, Soraya had to die.

He therefore falsely accused Soraya of adultery. Soraya's aunt, Zahra, a village elder (and the author's main informant (who is played by Aghdashloo)), loved Soraya and knew she was innocent. But she was powerless and could not save her. Ghorban-Ali tricked Soraya's own father into condemning her. He also had the support of one of the many fake, pederast, drug-addicted mullahs who, under Khomeini, enriched themselves personally by jailing and extorting money from their prisoners and by then executing them and confiscating all their wealth—a process very similar to the European Inquisition in which the Catholic church amassed great wealth in precisely this way.

After Ghorban-Ali denounced Soraya, she was sentenced to die later that same day. Ghorban-Ali was "radiant, jovial. Men slapped him affectionately and heartily…others hugged him." The crowd of villagers began to chant: "The whore has to die. Death to the woman." The villagers—who had know Soraya since her birth—cursed her, spit on her, hit her, and whipped her as she walked to her stoning. A "shudder of pleasure and joy ran through the crowd" as their stones drew blood. According to Sahebjams's account, Soraya died a slow and agonizing death.

When Soraya's aunt Zahra went to retrieve her body for burial, she was greeted by a "hallucinatory" spectacle. On the exact spot where Soraya had been stoned to death, a joyful fire was now burning, and around its flames the villagers were dancing. The strolling performers had started their show. The village women had donned their finest multicolored dresses and were turning in circles."

Afterwards, the fake mullah declared that the sinful Soraya could not be buried in a Muslim cemetery. He ordered some women to carry her broken body away. They half-buried her near a stream that Soraya happened to love. But when Zahra returned the next morning, she found that dogs had devoured most of her niece. She sat and wept, collected Soraya's bones, and buried them.

I must emphasize that this ghastly, local stoning cannot be blamed on the crimes of either America or Israel.

What will it take to stop the stoning of women in Iran? The rape and torture of dissident prisoners in Iran? The lashing and hanging of rape victims in Iran? The forced prostitution and temporary "marriages" in Iran? What will it take to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear power, does not attack Israel, Europe, America, or other Muslim countries in the region? Iran is a huge state sponsor of terrorism. It has funded Hamas and Hezbollah and conducts military operations against civilians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Argentina.

What are we willing to do to take Iran down? And please realize that the local village mullahs and the local villagers who played roles in the stoning of Soraya M are collaborators and opportunists. They back the regime. They share the regime's extremist views. The civilian population of Iran is not composed only of peaceful, democracy-oriented, dissidents. Many are as barbaric as their leaders.

Again, I ask: What are we willing to do? Not engaging has not worked. Engaging equals appeasement. Military action is dangerous, unthinkable, inevitable.

I have been asking this precise question for four years now. Your rally brings us one step closer to an answer.


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