A shocking video has been published that shows an Iranian man smiling as he walks through the streets of Ahvaz, a city in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, dangling the severed head of his 17-year-old wife in one hand and a blade in the other, after he allegedly decapitated her in an “honor killing.” This is not a unique occurrence, as there have been other such incidents even in the recent past.
In a report published in 2019, the state-run Sharq daily newspaper wrote that an annual average of 375 to 450 honour killings are recorded in Iran. The report states that , “The catastrophic rise in honour killings in Iran is rooted in misogyny and the patriarchal culture institutionalised in the laws and society. Although the father, brother or husband holds the knife, sickle or rifle, the murders are rooted in the medieval outlook of the ruling regime.”
The girl, variously identified as “Mona” or “Ghazal,”, who was also Sajjad’s cousin, had been forced to marry him when she was just 12 years old, according to the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. She reportedly suffered domestic abuse but was pressured to stay in the marriage for the sake of their three-year-old son and in order not to shame the families involved, according to the prevailing customs.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) referred to the alleged murder as an “honor killing.” In an interview published in Iran’s semiofficial FARS news agency, Sajjad Heidari’s mother is quoted as saying her son had threatened to kill his wife previously, and was responsible for her killing.
Mona had fled to Turkey four months before and was subsequently persuaded to return to Iran by her father, according to an interview with the girl’s mother-in-law, published on Fars. She returned from Turkey on Friday and was killed soon after. Heydari was arrested, along with his brother, who allegedly helped him commit the crime, prosecutor Abbas Hosseini Pouya told Fars.
The incident has prompted Iran’s government to push forward a review of a draft law that aims to protect women against domestic violence, Ensieh Khazali, the vice president for Women’s and Family Affairs, a cabinet-level position, said in a tweet, according to IRNA.
“The judiciary is determined to inflict the most severe punishment on (the killer and a suspected accomplice) in accordance with the law,” Khazali said.
Iranian women’s rights activists have campaigned for such a law for years in order to prevent “violence against women and prosecute their abusers,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in 2020.
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), said that “the beheaded child bride…might be alive today if Iran’s government had enacted laws against the cruel practice of child marriage, and protections against domestic violence.”
The crime comes only two years after another high profile “honor killing,” in which a 14-year-old was allegedly killed by her father with a sickle after she ran away from her family home in northern Iran’s Talesh County with a 29-year-old man.