Sticks and stones…

Posted on October 14, 2011


I really should just advertise for the Advertiser. However, even though I came across this news, again whilst perusing the newspaper during my lunch break, this is Australia-wide news, and very relevant to media in South Australia especially.

During the Film Festival in South Australia, a film was screened featuring an Iranian woman without her hijab (the head covering that conceals the neck and hair). Now, in Australia being seen without a burka or a hijab isn’t just acceptable, it’s almost required in public. Obviously the woman had no problems with appearing as such in her voluntary role in the film. However, it was only when the film was leaked via the internet to Iran that the trouble truly began.

Now, I will be one of the first to admit that Australia is a babysat country. We are spoon-fed media and information that, though not as regulated as it could be, is heavily under the thumb of right-wing conservatism. Porn is technically illegal. We don’t have an R-18 rating for video games. Numerous novels are banned within our country. However, freedom of speech and expression, artistic licence, if you will, has backfired tremendously on this woman.

For her appearance in an Australian film without her hijab, she is to be sentenced to a year’s jail in her country of birth. And though this is something that Australians would find outrageous, the worst is yet to come; the woman has been sentenced to 90 lashes, which consists of being laid face down, and beaten brutally with a long stick on the back, the thighs and the buttocks.

My disgust at her treatment, my outrage at her predicament, and my terror for her fate are nothing compared to the shame of knowing that it is her appearance in an Australian film that will get her so punished. Though the director of the film, members of the South Australian Film festival and members of the government are striving to assist her, it will likely be to no avail. She will be convicted, she will be sentenced, and she will be beaten. Brutally.

In a world such as ours, it sickens me that such treatment can still occur, especially to women, for such an absurd reason. I realise it is my upbringing that has taught me this, and that it is my life as a child of Western society that had made me take this perspective. But her punishment will come from the leaking of a film made in Australia via the internet. Australia has a responsibility to get this woman out of that country and her position safely and securely. And I know they won’t.

If anything, this situation not only shows the dangers of thoughtless publication, but also how close-minded people are in certain situations and societies. How a woman, through her depiction in a fictional circumstance, as an actress, in a Western country, could be so vilified in her homeland to receive such a brutal punishment.

Censorship, to me, is reprehensible. It is a stifling of freedom, of both expression and learning, it is a suffocation of culture, but in this case, this film should never have made it to Israel, not because they shouldn’t see it, but because this culture is going to brutalize a woman for her role in it.

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.


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