1986: The Stoning of Soraya M

11 comments August 15th, 2009 Headsman

It was on this date, according to French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s The Stoning of Soraya M, that 35-year-old mother Soraya Manutchehri was stoned to death in an Iranian village.


In a scene from The Stoning of Soraya M, the titular character awaits her titular fate.

In Sahebjam’s telling, a journalistic trip to the Islamic Republic chances upon a mountain village with a terrible secret.

The story he uncovers features one Ghorban-Ali, nasty husband par excellence who grows tired of the arranged wife he’s spent 22 years beating and (falsely) accuses her of adultery in order to put her out of the way so that he can remarry a younger bride.

With the complicity of the local mullah, the impolitic silence of the accused, and the structural misogyny of the law, Soraya Manutchehri quickly finds herself condemned to death on this date, and stoned within hours — Soraya’s own father casting the first stones.

This powerful story, officially denied by Tehran, has just been released in cinematic form. The Stoning of Soraya M. (movie homepage) features an unsubtle dramatic tableau, a stomach-churning 20-minute stoning sequence, and Iranian-American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo as Soraya’s aunt Zahra Kahnum, fearlessly giving the foreign journalist this explosive story

As it happened, this cinematic condemnation of the reduced status of women in the Ayatollah’s Iran made its American debut the same week that cell phone footage of Neda Agha-Soltan, bleeding to death after being shot dead during protests against Iran’s recent election results, became an Internet sensation.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Iran,Known But To God,Notable Sleuthing,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Sex,Stoned,Women,Wrongful Executions

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1963: Henry John Burnett, Scotland’s last hanging

Add comment August 15th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1963, the executioner paid his last call to Scotland with the hanging of Henry John Burnett for the murder of a rival-in-love seaman.

The type whom parents hope their daughter never dates, Burnett liked to keep his squeeze Margaret May Guyan under lock and key to keep her stepping out on him.

It’s an old, old tale. Boy meets girl, boy makes girl his prisoner, girl gets creeped out and returns to estranged hubby Thomas Guyan at 14 Jackson Terrace in Aberdeen, boy blasts Guyan in the face with a shotgun. How many times have we heard it told?

Even though the noose was on its way out — this is not only the last execution in Scotland, but the only hanging in Aberdeen in the past century and a half — there wasn’t much pussyfooting around when they’d made up their mind to use it: Burnett outlived his victim by only eleven weeks — notwithstanding an insanity plea and clemency petitions from both his own and the victim’s families — before hanging at Craiginches Prison, a facility that surely ought to be somebody’s porn name.

It’s got pride of place in a book about Aberdeen crime history, Blood and Granite. Because you can find anything on YouTube, there’s also this fine teaser for a forthcoming animation project of some kind:

Part of the Themed Set: At the End of the Rope.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,Scotland,Sex

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