Bernard-Henri Levy, the mastermind of the celebrity petition to free Roman Polanski, has now started a campaign to persuade the Iranian government to spare Sakineh Ashtiani from stoning. He's an odd man for the job.
Levy's latest project, launched Sunday at the Huffington Post, is "a daily letter to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani." Ashtiani reportedly no longer faces stoning for charges of adultery, but she could still be executed. In the latest of several efforts by Westerners to come to her aid, Levy writes,
Starting today and every day, an artist, an intellectual, a political leader or simply an internet regular will send an open and public message of solidarity with the young Iranian presently living on death row at Tabriz prison, waiting for the sentence of stoning to death to be carried out. Long or short messages, a quote or citation, a word, a poem, a plea, a cry—all of these will be welcome as long as they let Sakineh know that she is not as alone as it may seem to her, and as long as they let her assassins know that the world is watching them and judging them.
His first letter is from French actress Isabelle Adjani, who tells Ashtiani,
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.
Of course, Adjani also signed Levy's petition to free Roman Polanski, which read in part, "We ask the Swiss courts to free him immediately and not to turn this ingenious filmmaker into a martyr of a politico-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, require it." And while Levy's effort to help save Ashtiani is an honorable one, it's hard to take him or the other Polanski signatories seriously as champions of international women's rights. Samantha Geimer wasn't yet a woman when the director raped her, but she was "rich with unrealized possibilities," and Levy and Adjani's eagerness to excuse the crimes against her is hardly consistent with their current support of a woman's freedom. No, rape isn't stoning, and yes, any international attention Ashtiani's case receives is probably a good thing. At the same time, Levy and his supporters in the free-Polanski movement have forever compromised their integrity as supporters of women's rights, and their words carry less weight than the words of those who oppose all crimes against women.
Letter To Sakineh [Huffington Post]