Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Letters to Sakineh Astiani

Today's hearing in Iran was postponed for the third time. Clearly, the world is still paying too much attention to Sakineh Ashtiani. It still thinks she shouldn't be stoned, or hung, even after all the efforts put toward trying to implicate her in a murder, not just the questionable ones that convicted her of adultery after days of torture. 

The world still cares. Especially in France, the longtime supporter and haven for Iranian liberals. RFI offers regular updates, as do a number of French newspapers.

The French philosopher and journalist Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of the intriguing Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism and documentarian of the Iranian election demonstrations (see below for a refresher from 2009), is organizing a series of letters in advance of the International Stop Stoning Day (August 28, 2010). He has also been maintaining a petition to the Iranian Republic at his site, BHL, with signatures from authors including Wole Soyinka, Milan Kudera, Marjane Satrapi, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, politicians including former French Presidents Valéry Giscard-D'Estaing and Jacques Chirac, among many, many others. As of this writing, the list numbers 26,104 signatures. You can see it here.

I reproduce the first four letters here for my Persian readers. These English translations were published on Lévy's Huffington Post op-ed blog. Since the Wibiya translator has been acting up, I give you the links to BHL's La Règle de Jeu (Rules of the Game) posts of the letters in the original French. (If you cannot access the French versions, I'll post them in French. Just contact me.)

Dear Sakineh,
Condemned to be buried alive, and then stoned to death! Your beautiful face, reduced to a pulp! Your eyes full of sorrow and dignity, your forehead, your mind, your soul, transformed into a target for the stone throwers, exploded, pulverized, in shreds! Horror and consternation! This revoltingly nightmarish image, this vision that terrifies us and seems to come from a long ago age, this unbelievable torture that is on the very verge of becoming reality. For obscure reasons, in cold rage, people who are like you and me have decided so, Sakineh. People who claim the right to the power of life and death over those who refuse to obey them. 

Having learned of the sentence pronounced against you, how can one possibly remain silent? What is at real risk of happening to you will profoundly harm all women, all children, all those who are moved by human feeling. And even worse, you would not be the only one who risks being subject to this dreadful execution. I cannot see any good that may come of this macabre ceremony, whatever the legal justifications supplied.

To spill your blood, to deprive your children of their mother--but why? Because you have lived, because you have loved, because you are a woman, an Iranian? 

Everything within me refuses to accept this. The Iranian people are among the most ancient and remarkable nations of the planet. I do not understand how the heirs of a great civilization built upon tolerance and refinement can be unfaithful to this millennial heritage. 

Your judges must know, Sakineh, your name has become a symbol the world over. Let us hope they may understand that, no matter what the time or the place, they shall never be able to wash their hands of such a crime.

I am proud to live in a country that has abolished the death penalty. For a long while, it was an element of our law, and I can tell you that this abolition was a democratic victory, one that was very important for all of our people. What if this victory became yours as well? What if the Iranian nation turned its back on this barbarian practice?
I pray that your country's justice may find the way to prove clement in your case and in the cases of all the other victims who risk undergoing the same torture. In France, school children learn that mercy is the greatest virtue of those who govern. 

In the depths of your cell, know that my husband will plead your cause unfailingly and that France will not abandon you. 

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy   
Lisez en français

In principle, I refrain from intervening in judicial procedures taking place in foreign countries. But in this case, the fate awaiting Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani does not seem to me compatible with the principles and customs of the modern world. From its very origins, humanity has worked to free itself of cruel and primitive behavior. In every culture, civilization seeks to reject practices that are detrimental to the dignity of human beings. Stoning is one such practice. The penalty one proposes to inflict upon Sakineh throws us back into the dark ages of humanity. I believe that the great Persian culture that contributed to building human civilization deserves much better than this. Let us hope the Iranian authorities will realize this while there is still time.

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing    
Lisez en français

Dear Sakineh,
I am thinking very hard about you, and about your children, Fasride and Sajjad, and my blood runs cold. Take courage and hope, more and more voices are being raised for you all over the world, and they will succeed in being heard and in tearing down the walls of your prison. In helping you, we are helping ourselves. We need your liberation so that our ideal of liberty and fraternity may advance and gain ground. There where the dignity of women is bruised, crushed, annihilated, Humanity in its entirety recedes. Where woman is used as an expiatory victim, enslaved for the sole crime of having been born a woman, all those who know that this obscurantism leads to even greater disaster must rise. Sakineh, we will not abandon you. Hang on for us, hang on for us.

Ségolène Royal    Lisez en français

Sakineh, your name beats in my heart, and my heart beats, writing to you. Your name is on all lips and will be murmured to burst the eardrums of the judges who remain deaf to the moans of the women among whom you are the invincible figure of liberty. You are the real woman, cruelly rich with unrealized possibilities, the one who gives flesh and blood to a sense of justice that makes the entire world shiver in disgust, the one that would rip its skin off were we not capable of conquering the deliberate obscurantism of men who are enraged by the power of your very existence.
The woman writing you is only a French actress whose artistic vocation leads her to take on, as humanly as possible, the faults and the torments of often tragic heroines. She is only the minute extension of the "fragment of our destiny as women" which you represent and of your refusal of this "savoir mourir" forced upon you by those who are obsessed, in the name of criminal ignorance, with the desire to liquidate the magnificence of your dignity. They are crazed with rage at the simple idea of love--yes, love--your liberty represents. I leave you, dear Sakineh, you who remain with us constantly. 

Isabelle Adjani     Lisez en français

Neither Sakineh, nor her fellow death sentenced prisoners, are forgotten. Please remember to  commemorate the fight against stoning deaths on August 28th on Facebook and on Twitter.

Header and footer text commentary © Bright Nepenthe, 2010

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