The Beautiful People have just weighed in on the matter of She-Who-Would-Be-Stoned. More than eighty actors, models, singers, musicians, comedians, authors, philosophers, artists, and parliamentarians (mainly based in Europe), have just signed a letter on behalf of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. The letter is addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and President Ahmadinejad.
The signatories include V.S. Naipaul, Wole Soyinka, Carla Bruni, (the first lady of France), Sting, Lady Antonia Fraser, Damien Hirst, Howard Jacobson, Isabelle Huppert, Bernard Kouchner, Bernard-Henri Levy — and American actors Mia Farrow, Robert De Niro, and Robert Redford.
A month ago, I had a surprising conversation with a prominent Israeli expert on Iran. He said:
Trust me. They are very sensitive to criticism. The international campaign on behalf of the woman they wish to stone is proving effective. They will have to respond.
We were discussing Sakineh’s tragic plight, the woman who has already been jailed for five years, tortured, flogged 99 times, and sentenced to be stoned to death.
A mainly European-based international campaign on Sakineh’s behalf featured an Iranian feminist dissident march from London and Paris to the European Parliament in Brussels; this seemingly led to an announcement that Sakineh’s death sentence would be delayed which was soon followed by a (false) announcement that Sakineh had been freed and/or that her death sentence had been canceled.
This was disinformation during which time the Iranian authorities, in classic totalitarian style, forced Sakineh to participate in a videotaped docu-drama (!!) in which Sakineh reenacted how she and her alleged lover allegedly murdered her husband.
According to the Times of London story (reprinted here), the government-run media accused the Western media of “peddling myths about Ms. Ashtiani” and then showed the docu-drama in response. On camera:
In a deadpan voice Ms Ashtiani, or a woman identified as her, told a bizarre story of how she was contacted out of the blue by a relative named Isa Taheri, agreed to meet him in a park, began an affair with him, and then agreed to help him when he telephoned one day to say that he intended to kill her husband. She showed how she allegedly injected her husband while he was asleep with flu to make him unconscious so Taheri could electrocute him.
Videotaped docu-dramas now characterize the 21st century version of a Soviet Show Trial and a truly Big Lie. Israeli soldiers are seen, falsely, but on film, committing a “massacre” of civilians in Lebanon and Jenin. People tend to believe their eyes — even if what they are seeing is a Big Fat Lie. So too, the Iranian authorities now have Sakineh confessing on tape and actually showing people how she helped her alleged lover to electrocute her husband.
By the way: That alleged lover is free since Sakineh’s children “pardoned” him. Sakineh remains a condemned prisoner, guilty of both “adultery” and “murder.” Has her husband’s family refused to “pardon” her or is her crime too great to be privately pardoned?
Sakineh’s first lawyer fled the country and is now living in exile in Norway. Her second lawyer and her son — who had been forced to witness his mother being flogged 99 times — have now mysteriously disappeared.
Why else do you think Sakineh participated in this docu-drama? My guess is that the government kidnapped her son and lawyer and promised to free them only if Sakineh finally told the “truth” on tape.
And yet, the Beautiful People — and I do not mean to mock a single one, they are doing the right thing — naively, righteously, believe that the Iranian authorities can be reasoned with or, failing that, shamed into doing the right thing.
Are Amadinejad and his handlers ashamed of what they do? Can they be made to feel shame? If they are publicly dishonored, won’t they dig in their heels and strike back even more forcefully to redeem their lost honor?
Recently, at a sobering conference held by the Yale Initiative for the Inter-disciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, I heard a dramatic and heartbreaking account by the Argentinian Prosecutor in the matter of the Iranian bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires. After proving his case beyond a shadow of a doubt — Iran’s Hezbollah was, indeed, behind these bloody deeds — the Prosecutor was still unable to arrest the mastermind. Why? Because Iran had just appointed the fiend behind these crimes as Iran’s Minister of Defense. He was untouchable. He had diplomatic immunity.
The Iranians believe that their “defense” involves killing Jews in Argentina. They were not at all shamed by being proven guilty in a court of law. They responded with deadly clever diplomacy and a show of sovereign force. Iran’s Minister of Defense is not losing any sleep over all those Israelis, Jews, and Argentinians whom he killed and wounded.
I am with the Beautiful People signatories. I supported the Iranian feminist dissidents and their supporters who marched to the European Parliament on Sakineh’s behalf. I hope that my Israeli expert on Iran is right, that Iran is “sensitive” to what the outside world thinks. However, I fear that their being “shamed” or in any way “brought to heel” may also result in an even deadlier and more defiant show of power.
They are cannibalizing the best of their youth, demoralizing their educated middle class, especially the women; persecuting the homosexuals, rape victims, battered wives, and dissidents.
Will a mere letter put an end to this? In the short run, is the pen mightier than the sword?
Can we stop the Iranians from becoming a nuclear power with pretty speeches and appeals to reason?
© 2010 Phyllis Chesler. This article was originally posted on NewsRealBlog. Cross-posted with permission.
Related: Europe, Extremists, Feminism, Human Rights, Iran, Islam, Political Correctness