Foot whipping, variously known as bastinado, falanga (phalanga), and falaka (falaqa), German terms are Bastonade and formerly Sohlenstreich, is a form of corporal punishment in which the soles of the feet are beaten with an object such as a cane, rod or club, a stout leather bullwhip, or a flexible bat of heavy rubber. It is sometimes favoured as a form of torture and punishment of prisoners because, although extremely painful, it leaves few physical marks.

The prisoner may be immobilized before application of the beating by tying, securing the feet in stocks, locking the legs into an elevated position. One method of immobilizing formerly utilized in German national socialistic penitentiaries the prisoner is restrained on a bench lying prone while the bottoms of the feet are facing upwards. The Persian term falaka referred to a wooden plank which was used to secure the feet prior to beating. The German term sohlenstreich can be literally translated as striking of the soles.

Foot whipping is effective due to the clustering of nerve endings in the feet and the structure of the foot, with its numerous small bones and tendons. The wounds inflicted are particularly painful and take a long time to heal, if executed with heavy and inflexible objects, rendering it a particularly brutal and cruel punishment.

This punishment has, at various times, been used in China, as well as the Middle East. It was used throughout the Ottoman Empire. During the era of National Socialism it was widely used in women's penitentiaries and penal camps, where prisoners commonly had to remain barefoot.[1] [2] [3]

In history

  • Bahá'u'lláh (founder of the Bahá'í Faith) underwent foot whipping in August 1852 as a follower of the Babi religion. (Esslemont, 1937)
  • It was reported that Russian prisoners of war were "bastinadoed' at Afion camp by their Turkish captors during World War I. However British prisoners escaped this treatment.[4]
  • Foot whipping was used by Fascist Blackshirts against Freemasons critical of Benito Mussolini as early as 1923. (Dalzell, 1961)
  • Sohlenstreich was a common form of corporal punishment in women's penitentiaries during the national socialistic regime in Germany.
  • British colonial police officer Charles Tegart is said to have instituted foot whipping, a practice derived from the former Ottoman rule, in an interrogation centre established at Jerusalem in 1938, as part of the effort to crush the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.
  • Applied by Soviet Union to Vsevolod Meyerhold in 1939.
  • Foot whipping was, among other methods, used as a method of obtaining confession from alleged political criminals during the communist regime of Czechoslovakia[5]
  • It was used as a method of torture during the Regime of the Colonels in Greece, from 1967–1974 (source: "The Method" by Pericles Korovessis).
  • Foot whipping was used at the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh during the rule of the Khmer Rouge and is mentioned in the ten regulations to prisoners now on display in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

In modern times

  • Foot whipping was a commonly reported torture method used by the security officers of Bahrain on its citizens between 1974 and 2001.[6] See Torture in Bahrain.
  • Falanga is allegedly used by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) against persons suspected of involvement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change parties (MDC-T and MDC-M).[7]
  • The Prime Minister of Swaziland, Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, threatened to use this form of torture (sipakatane) to punish South African activists who had taken part in a mass protest for democracy in that country.[8]
  • Kerala Police is supposed to have used this as a part of torturing Naxals during the emergency period.[9]
  • Reportedly used by Assad regime on Syrians in Homs.[10]

In literature

  • In act V, scene I of the Shakespearean comedy As You Like It, Touchstone threatens William with the line: "I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel..."
  • In act I, scene X of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail ("The Abduction from the Seraglio"), Osmin threatens Belmonte and Pedrillo with bastinado: "Sonst soll die Bastonade Euch gleich zu Diensten steh'n."
  • In act I, scene XIX of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, Sarastro orders Monostatos to be punished with 77 blows on the soles of his feet: "He! gebt dem Ehrenmann sogleich/nur sieben und siebenzig Sohlenstreich'."
  • In Chapter 8, Climatic Conditions, of Robert Irwin’s novel The Arabian Nightmare, Sultan’s doppelganger is discovered and is questioned. “He was bastinadoed lightly to make him talk (for a heavy bastinado killed), but the man sobered up quickly and said nothing.”
  • In Chapter 31 of Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, a member of Twain's party goes to collect a specimen from the face of the Sphinx and Twain sends a sheik to warn him of the consequences: "...by the laws of Egypt the crime he was attempting to commit was punishable with imprisonment or the bastinado."

In popular culture

  • It exists, alongside other BDSM whipping practices, as a fetish or paraphilia.
  • Foot-whipping scenes were shown in the 1978 film Midnight Express, where the main protagonist is punished in this manner in a Turkish prison. Later in the film the same is administered to a group of schoolboys, though less severely.
  • Foot whipping is a form of punishment for women in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.
  • In The Godfather, Don Corleone's son, Sonny, has three men "thoroughly bastinadoed" by his bodyguards.
  • In the 1994 film Quiz Show, Charles van Doren – imagining what tortures the Senate hearing might hold – suggests foot-whipping, along with the rack and the iron maiden.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Revelations," Dr. Spencer Reid has the sole of his foot beaten as a form of punishment for perceived sins.
  • In the TV series Bones, Dr Brennan notes that Agent Booth had been subjected to beatings on the bottom of his feet as a prisoner of war.
  • In the TV series Spooks, a blown agent is subjected to the beating of his feet, consequently suffering a brain haemorrhage (2002).
  • In The Scorpion Signal, a Quiller book by Adam Hall, falanga is said to have been used by Soviet counter-intelligence on the British agent Shapiro, causing "irreversible ischemic changes".
  • In the film Ninja Assassin One of the students of the ninja clan was brutally whipped on the soles of his feet for making sounds when walking.
  • On the 1987 album Jackamo by industrial artist Little Annie Anxiety Bandez, track two is titled "Bastinado."
  • In the film The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (2009), falaka is used by Nazi Gestapo to extract information from main female protagonist played by Anna Paquin.
  • In the French film Empire of the Wolves (2005), a murder victim is noted by the investigating officer to have been tortured by falaka. In this case, the bones of the feet were badly broken.
  • In the Turkish TV series muhteşem yüzyıl(2012), falaka is used to punish the maids

See also


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