The Stoning of Soraya M. is a film based on the book of the same name by Freidoune Sahebjam, a French-Iranian journalist. Both the film and the book are clearly from a feminist perspective. They make a clear case against the Iranian Sharia Law system, championed by Zahra, the aunt of the titular character, Soraya. While acknowledgement of an individual's right to choose and freely practice their religion is laudable, more important is the recognition that there is a clear moral distinction between right and wrong. The events depicted in this film fit unambiguously and absolutely into the category of wrong. The inherent failings and obvious injustice for women due to a strict and barbarous interpretation of religious law are made indisputably clear in this film.
From the title, the plot of the film is immediately clear. Despite the viewer's knowledge of Soraya's fate from the outset, watching it unfold is still beyond belief. Soraya is depicted as a beautiful young woman, tormented by her abusive and philandering husband, Ali. Despite the entire villages knowledge of her husband's affairs, Soraya is powerless to separate from him on her own terms. Her two sons, far too young to make conscious decisions, mimic their father, are cold and callous toward their mother and sisters, while her daughters are equally abused and neglected by the men. When Ali desires a divorce from Soraya in order to marry a fourteen year old from the city, he makes what he considers a 'fair' proposal for settlement, which neglects to provide for Soraya or their daughters whom he does not want.
Thereafter, Soraya is left with no recourse under Islamic law. According to the beliefs regarding honour and shame in the village, to seek shelter elsewhere in order to escape her husband's assaults will place fault squarely on Soraya, but to settle for the divorce will make her unmarriageble and bereft of resources to care for her daughters. Clearly, the system is skewed in favour of men and makes it all but impossible for women to refuse them anything. In fact, both the village imam and Ali are quick to remind Soraya that under Sharia law the husband has all the rights, and she none. The village imam offers her a temporary marriage, condemned by Zahra as contemptible, and he vows revenge on both women.
With a common cause, Ali and the imam conspire against Soraya. They force her to care for the recently widowed village mechanic, all the while looking for cause to indict Soraya for misconduct. When no grounds for divorce can be attained, the men begin a whisper campaign against Soraya. Shortly thereafter, they force the mechanic to falsely comply with their charge of adultery against Soraya under by threatening to kill him also and leave his orphaned son at the mercy of the justice system that does not protect the young. This is yet another example of the failings of this particular brand of religious law.
With the alleged proof of impropriety,...