Huffpost WorldPost
Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

Why Sakineh Is a Symbol

Posted: Updated:

I would have liked to have reiterated, this week, why Marine Le Pen is none the less radical than her father and infinitely more dangerous. Or to have explained why Jean-Luc Mélenchon is Sarkozy's best card, since he represents the best means, when the time comes, to weaken his adversary and eliminate him, like Jospin at the second round of the presidential election of 2002. I would have liked to have gone into, in depth, this strange affair of the Wikileaks and all the political and philosophical questions it raises or compels us to ask. But all that will wait. There will be other occasions to do so, and so I shall wait. For I cannot refrain from coming back to the Sakineh affair once again, and to the crazy week we have just been through.

First of all there was the false news of her possible liberation that, in just minutes, made the rounds of newsrooms, invaded the media of the planet, on screen and on paper, and set the blogosphere ablaze. That we at La Règle du Jeu immediately sensed a trap is not the problem (and it is not especially meritorious given the network of Iranian informers, bloggers, and twitterers we have succeeded in monitoring for the past year, with Armin Arefi's help). The problem is the barbarism of the process. Its boundless cruelty. It is this consummate art of blowing hot and cold, of measuring out doses of terror and hope, at which the Iranians, like all totalitarians, are becoming masters. The Nazis staged fake executions. The Iranians organize sham liberations. But basically, it's the same thing. With a triple objective. To terrorize the victim--I imagine this was the case. To ridicule the West--'Wherever there are bastards, there are always idiots; and if we are perhaps bastards, you are most assuredly our useful idiots'--message, unfortunately, received. But most of all, to test public opinion, take its temperature, verify whether we are still concerned by the affair or if our legendary capriciousness has overcome our passion and if we have already gone on to something else--and there, on the other hand, the result was not what they were expecting, for the reaction to the news, the wave of joy and emotion that rippled across the world will at least have had the merit of demonstrating that mobilization has by no means weakened.

There followed, and this was even more abject, the false true reconstitution of the murder of the husband broadcast on the Iranian television channel destined for a foreign audience in general and an Anglo-Saxon one in particular. Here we saw Sakineh entering the picture, with melodramatic music in the background. Then go to a cupboard in the kitchen where she took out a syringe and filled it with a bizarre liquid. We saw her inject it into a body lying down, feigning sleep, one easily recognized as the familiar figure of Sajjad, her son. The height, then, of ignominy. One has difficulty imagining--or, on the contrary, one imagines only too well--what «arguments» had to be used to make the young man act out the role of his dead father, in theatrics intended to confound his mother. But, there again, the manœuvre was a flop. The intent was to discredit Sakineh. The intent was to tell us, "You believe you are defending a victim, a madonna of human rights, an icon, but this woman is a criminal." Except that, in this field, the Iranians need a few more lessons. Next time, they will have to come up with more convincing images than this grotesque docu-drama that fails to make one forget all the tricks and what's going on off camera. All the more so because a certain number of signs (the actress's voice, her figure, this new mole on her cheek, her nose, the fact that she speaks impeccable Persian while Sakineh is Azeri and has a limited mastery of the country's official language) suggest that they found a false Sakineh, with outrageous make-up and carefully plucked eyebrows, a coy smile on her lips, to play the role of the real one. Pathetic. Diabolical, but pathetic.

At this point, though, and even if this use of strategems designed to discredit her has not had the expected effect, it is obvious that the Iranian authorities have made Sakineh the object of a battle that goes beyond her humble person. Why? With what aim in mind? And what is the meaning of this mystery of iniquity that makes of a simple being, innocent in every sense of the word, the stakes of a global arm-wrestling match? When the moment comes, the question, and its answer, will be long overdue. For now, this is the reality. We have made a symbol of her. They, too, have made her a symbol. And we must win this battle of symbols without delay. Because Sakineh, as Iranian justice declared when she was clearly exonerated during the trial four years ago, has nothing to do with the crime for which, today, in order to shake the West, they are attempting to make her bear the responsibility. And then because, behind her face, her true face, not that of the marionette doubles they put in her place, is this Iranian night where dozens, perhaps hundreds of other women are victims of the same injustice, where others, all the others, are treated like objects, less-than-nothings, animals--and for that, they revolt. These women are the image of fanatical, obscurantist Iran of today. But they are also its future.