The Stoning (2006)





Director:     Harald Holzenleiter.

Starring:    Özay Fecht (Azimi - Sarah), Haluk Piyes (Majidi - Hamid Rheza), Leila Rozario (Milani's secretary), Cheyenne Rushing (Mulligan - Catherine).

young American woman converts to Islam and follows her lover to Iran; she meets a tragic fate


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

A woman journalist writes about an American prisoner, Catherine Mulligan Majidi:  "In truth politics is a dirty game with rules, merciless rules.  A game about the power of a few.  About every ones' fate.  And religion is the key, the key to power.   Politics in the name of god is a pact with the devil.  That's why there is no room for compassion and humanity in my country.  The rules of this so called state of God, in the hands of men are based on cruelty, manipulation and fear.  Fear of the wrath of Allah.  Fear of those religious fanatics, who would like to be men of God but have lost touch with Him."

June 2003.  Iran near to Kerman.  Women dressed in black push women dressed in white and in chains across the barren landscape.  The women in white are being taken to prison. 

The journalist continues:  "We women live in constant fear of the anger of those self-appointed servants of Allah and their merciless punishments.  Put an end to this abuse!  Let us search for the meaning of life!  Let us seek God!  Because in the eyes of God all people are created equal!  Everyone!  Men and women!"

The warden gets a folder of an American woman named Catherine Mulligan.  He goes down to see the new prisoners.  He speaks to the women as if he has no compassion at all in his heart.  It's a terrible, despicable speech.  He says they will be compassionate and carry out the death sentences within three days. 

The first woman in line will be stoned to death.  The second woman is to receive death by stoning this very day.  The third woman will receive 100 lashes and 10 days of solitary confinement.   The fourth woman, Catherine Mulligan Majidi, will receive 24 lashes and one year solitary confinement.  The fifth woman gets 100 lashes and solitary confinement for life. 

Bare-footed Catherine is thrown into her cell.  A little later she is taken from her cell.  She has to walk past the second woman in line, now buried up past her hips who will be stoned to death.  Catherine is taken to a wall.  She faces the wall and the women guards tie her hands to the ropes above her head.  As the whipping slashes across Catherine's back, the condemned woman is being stoned to death. 

The guards take Catherine back to her cell.  She passes by the now dead woman.  The scarf around the condemned woman's head is completely drenched with blood.

The journalist, Mrs. Azimi, is in a hospital room with a laptop computer and she writes out her article on the stoning of Catherine.  The care taker for the room tells her that she should leave soon or she will miss her flight to London. 

Mrs. Azimi in now in London.  She visits the London offices of Amnesty International.  A man presents Catherine's case.  She was born in Houston, Texas in 1980.   In 2001 Catherine moved to Hannover, Germany to study Islamic science which is where she met her future husband Hamid.  Hamid returned to Iran in 2002 and Catherine went with him and converted to Islam.  They married in September of 2002 despite the protests of the Majidi family.  In February 2003 Catherine was raped in her own house by a neighbor.  It was at this point that Catherine came to the speaker, a lawyer known as Mr. Milani, for a consultation. 

Flashback.  The lawyer says it's best that she did not report the crime to the police, because then the accused rapist could have just denied that he raped Catherine.  He would swear that Catherine consented to have sex with him.  Then he would have seen to it that the charge of rape was turned into a charge of adultery against Catherine.  He adds that in Iran the word of a man counts twice more than that of a woman.   He reminds Mrs. Majidi that Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still practices "sharia" law.  Under sharia, adultery is punishable by death by stoning.  Catherine says she can't believe that this is happening to her.  The lawyer apologizes for the religious fanatics that run Iran, but as long as they are in power sharia is the reality of the day. 

There's more bad news for Catherine.  The lawyer says there is nothing he can do for her.  He suggests she go home to her husband, but just keep quiet about the rape.  It's important that she not tell her husband, because in Iran the family of the wife often disowns their own daughter.   

Mr. Malani says he told Catherine that in Islamic countries rapes are rarely ever prosecuted.  And then Catherine got into more trouble.  She started bleeding heavily from an abortion of the child she was carrying and her father-in-law Mohamed Majidi made sure that Catherine was arrested in the hospital.  Mrs. Azimi says that Mohamed Majidi is known as an extremely radical fanatic.  And Mohamed has contacts with the highest levels of the government.  Furtherore, his son Hamid wed an American non-believer.  According to Mohamed, the American whore killed Hamid's son.  The father probably forced Hamid to send the divorce papers to Catherine. 

Mrs. Azimi is in the same prison as Catherine.  She tells Catherine that she better have a good lawyer, because the charges against her are very serious ones.  Her lawyer, Mr. Milani comes to see Catherine.  He tells her that Mohamed Majidi has put pressure on a lot of influential Mullahs to see to it that Catherine gets the maximum sentence.  The lawyer is working to prevent that.   He says tomorrow the prosecuting attorney is going to suggest a particularly mild sentence for Catherine.  In turn, the judge will endorse it. 

Suddenly one of the women with her lawyer goes hysterical.  This upsets Catherine a lot. 

A woman named Jean Fielding, Catherine's aunt, pays Catherine a visit and promises her that they are going to get her out of prison as fast as possible.  A guard tells Catherine that she has to go to prayers now.  Jean leaves. 

Back to the present.  One of the Amnesty International people tells Mrs. Azimi and Mr. Milani that Jean Fielding did a great job for them when she was in the United States.  She really mobilized the media.  Mrs. Azimi says the she was with Catherine for a very short while. 

Flashback.  Catherine tells Mrs. Azimi about the sentence she received and Mrs. Azimi tells her that the authorities are going to send her to the Kerman fortress, the cruelest place in Iran.  She tells Catherine a great deal about how to survive in solitary confinement.  Catherine starts crying because it is all so frightening to her.  That night Catherine wrote a long letter to Hamid.  She had Mrs. Azimi read the letter and the older woman says it was a beautiful letter.  The next morning she was transferred to the Kerman fortress.  Catherine says goodbye to Mrs. Azimi, who tells Catherine that she will fight for her.  hey hug. Catherine replies:  "I know."  Catherine leaves.  Mrs. Azimi tells Amnesty International that she never saw Catherine again. 

Aunt Jean and Catherine's lawyer come to see Catherine.  Catherine gives her some letters to mail to Hamid.  Jean tells Catherine that she will see her in front of Tiffany's, Fifth Avenue, New York City a year and a day from today so Catherine can honor a lost bet with her aunt. 

Back to the present.  Amnesty International holds a press conference on Catherine with Mr. Sizemore and Catherine's lawyer.  She has only 39 days to go before she is to be let out of prison.  But a second trial was convened and Catherine was accused of adultery.  She was sentenced "in absentia" to death by stoning.  The spokesman says that no government has the right to impose such a heinous punishment on any person.  He goes on to says that Catherine's case is an example of "crimes against humanity".  And now the spokesman announces the beginning of an Amnesty International, world-wide campaign against death by stoning. 

Hamid Majidi shows up in Mrs. Azimi's son's Berlin hospital room.  He forces Azimi to go with him and a woman accomplice named Roja.  They take her to a secluded place.  Roja is acting as an aide to an important man with other important men in a hotel.  She calls Hamid and he starts to come upstairs.  Meanwhile, Roja puts a silencer on her weapon.  She calls one of the guards into the women's bathroom saying a faucet is not working.  The man starts to work on the problem, while Roja pulls out her pistol.  She shoots the man in the forehead.

Now Hamid arrives.  He shoots a guard and then asks the other guard if he is married and has children?  Yes to both questions.  Then don't make a move or he will never see them again.  The third guard is taken into the women's room and Roja watches him.  Now Roja starts for the room with the important men, while Hamid shoots the third guard in the leg.  He goes down screaming in pain.  Hamid catches up with Roja and they go into the room.  "Hands up!" is the order. 

On the news is the talk of 2 American and 2 Iranian businessmen being taken as hostages from Hotel Berlin. 

East Saturday 2004, Ministry of the Interior, Berlin.  A group of four men meet together to go over what is known so far about the kidnappings.  The man giving the briefing says one of the kidnapers is Hamid Reza Majidi.  One of the hostages is his own father.  Another of the kidnappers is his female cousin Roja Hashemian.  The two kidnappers have given the police a video in which the four kidnapped businessmen are presented.  Hamid then says these men will all die if his demands are not met.  In short, Hamid wants his wife released.

The Amnesty International fellows see the video on television.  They are convinced that the kidnapping will blow up in Hamid's own face.  The Iranians will never negotiate with kidnappers.  In fact:  "This might prove to be Catherine's death sentence."

Hamid tells the hostages they will not be harmed as long as they don't try any tricks.  His father says Hamid is making a mistake.  Hamid tells him he better watch out or he just may make his father the first man he kills.  He now tells Mrs. Azimi that he wants her to write down everything that happens here.  And then he wants her to tell him all about Catherine. 

As narrator Mrs. Azimi says that now Catherine's life was in great danger.  Everyone in the world was now convinced that Hamid was just another dangerous Islamic terrorist. 

In jail Catherine looks terrible.  She imagines that the executed prisoner is with her in her cell. 

Easter Sunday 2004, near Berlin.  Hamid talks with Azimi about Catherine.  The conversation continues in front of the four hostages.  Hamid's dad says that he was intercepting Catherine's letter to Hamid and it was he who made sure that Catherine would die.  Hamid jumps on his father and tries to strangle him to death.  Roja and a guard help pull Hamid off his father. 

Mr. Sizemore goes on television and says he is sure Hamid will release the hostages as soon as he learns that Catherine has been released from prison.  The news anchor says the police know where the hideout is, but they are holding off doing anything until they hear from Iran about Catherine. 

Catherine's lawyer calls Mrs. Azimi's cellular telephone.  He tells her that he things President Chatami is going to free Catherine.  They are meeting on the matter now.  The decision will be made in half an hour. 

The police are pouring into the area around the hideout place.  The chief gets the order to move on the hideout and save the hostages.  The men start to deploy to their positions. 

Hamid is out by the lake reading the letter from Catherine (as reconstructed by Mrs. Azimi) that will tell him everything.

Mrs. Azimi goes outside with one of the women guards.  The German S.W.A.T. team grabs her and then goes over to get the guard. 

The lawyer's team can't reach the prison warden on the phone because he is having a long argument with his wife about whether or not their daughter can wear a blue wedding dress. 

The jailers take Catherine out of her cell.  They take her out to the courtyard and wrap her legs up nice and tight.  The wrapping continues until she is wrapped up like a mummy, except her face is showing.  They stick her in a hole in the earth and then fill the hole in around her legs and waist. 

The SWAT team is ready to kill Hamid.  A sharpshooter shoots him in the forehead and Hamid falls into the lake.

The executioners put a cloth around Catherine's head and now she fully realizes what is going to happen to her.  She starts screaming.  A prayer is read for Catherine and the warden nods to the people waiting to throw stones at Catherine. 

The SWAT team gets closer and closer to the hideout. 

The stone throwers psyche themselves up to throw the stones at Catherine's head. 

The SWAT team moves in on the hide out.  A woman guard is killed. 

Catherine 's head is being hit by rocks and her shroud is covered in blood.

The SWAT team kills all the kidnappers in the hideout.  Two of the hostages were killed.  Hamid's father is rescued.  Azimi looks at Hamid's body and she promises him that his story will be known to the whole world.    Azimi is currently running a play in London called "The Stoning".

Azimi puts on the play for an audience of all Muslim women.  They see terrible examples of how vicious, brutal and unfair Muslim men can be under sharia law.  One of the examples is the stoning of a condemned woman.  Other women take the body out and put it beside a tree.  The dead woman's face is totally disfigured. 

Azimi asks:  "Is this cruelty the will of Allah?  Put an end to death by stoning." 

"Dedicated to all women in the world, who were murdered by stoning."


This is not a happy story, but it is an important one.  Stoning stories are also not easy to watch.  The women in many Islamic countries have very few rights and lots of duties and obligations.  A big problem is that sharia law asks for the death penalty against way too many women for way too many crimes or even non-crimes.  Adultery is not a crime in the USA, but it sure is in Iran.  And the death sentence is carried out by stoning.  And stoning is a particularly brutal way to die.  The film The Stoning of Soraya M. (2008) is even harder to watch than the film above.  Much more time is spent covering the various specifics of the stoning of Soraya M. than of Catherine Mulligan.  But the results are the same for both women. 

Özay Fecht (as Azimi - Sarah) was very good as the Iranian journalist and playwright who tried to save unjustified death of Catherine. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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