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Foot whipping, variously known as bastinado, falanga (phalanga), and falaka (falaqa), is a form of corporal punishment whereby the soles of the feet are beaten with an object such as a cane or rod, a club, a piece of wood, a stout leather bullwhip, or a flexible bat of heavy rubber. It is also sometimes favoured as a form of torture because, although extremely painful, it leaves few physical marks, though evidence can be detected via ultrasound technology.
The prisoner may be immobilised before application of the beating by tying, securing the feet in stocks, locking the legs into an elevated position, or hanging upside-down. The Persian term falaka referred to a wooden plank which was used to secure the feet prior to beating.
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, rendering it a particularly brutal and cruel punishment.
- British colonial police officer Charles Tegart is said to have instituted foot whipping, a practice derived from the former Ottoman rule, in an interrogation center established at Jerusalem in 1938, as part of the effort to crush the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.
- 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.
- Bahá'u'lláh (founder of the Bahá'í Faith) underwent foot whipping in August 1852 as a follower of the Babi religion. (Esslemont, 1937)
- Foot whipping was used by Fascist Blackshirts against Freemasons critical of Benito Mussolini as early as 1923. (Dalzell, 1961)
- 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).
In modern times
- The late Uday Hussein, a leader of Iraq's Ba'ath Party regime and son of Saddam Hussein, is alleged to have used this method of torture on Iraqi Olympic athletes who did not perform according to standards.
- Foot whipping was a commonly reported torture method used by the security officers of Bahrain on its citizens between 1974 and 2001. See: Torture in Bahrain.
- Foot whipping is known to be used in Saudi Arabia as a method of punishment and of torture. See William Sampson
- Falanga is allegedly used by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) against persons suspected of involvement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
- It exists, alongside other BDSM whipping practices, as a fetish/paraphilia.
- 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.
In popular culture
- 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'."
- Foot-whipping scenes were shown in the 1978 film Midnight Express where the main protagonist is punished in this manner in a Turkish prison.
- 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."
- E/CN.4/1997/7 Fifty-third session, Item 8(a) of the provisional agenda UN Doc., 10 January 1997
- "An Analysis of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Legal Cases, 1998-2006".
- Sibongile Sukati, "'Sipakatane' for rowdy foreigners", Times of Swaziland, Mbabane, 9 September 2010.