The so-called “honor killing” of a 14-year-old Iranian girl by her father, who reportedly used a farming sickle to behead her as she slept, has prompted a nationwide outcry in Iran.
The alleged killing has even prompted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to urge his cabinet to speed up harsher laws against such crimes and he pushed for speedy adoption of relevant legislation.
Reza Ashrafi, now in custody, was apparently enraged when he killed his daughter Romina on Thursday after she ran away with 34-year-old Bahamn Khavari in Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran.
As CBN News has reported, in traditional societies in the Middle East, including Iran, the blame would typically fall on a runaway girl, or even a girl who’s been abused, for purportedly having sullied her family’s honor, rather than on an adult male luring away a child.
Romina was found five days after leaving home and taken to a police station before her father took her back home. The girl reportedly told the police she feared a violent reaction from her father.
On Wednesday, a number of national newspapers featured the story prominently and the BBC reported the hashtag #RominaAshrafi has been used more than 50,000 times on Twitter, with most users condemning the killing and the patriarchal nature of Iranian society in general.
Shahindokht Molaverdi, a former vice-president for women and family affairs and the current secretary of Iran’s Society for Protecting Women’s Rights, wrote: “As long as the current laws discriminating against girls and empowering abusive parents exist, unfortunately the cycle of violence will continue. Iran will see more Ruminas and Atefehs tragically killed by their fathers. This cycle of violence needs to end.”
Proposed legislation against honor killings has apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran, but with no results.
Iran’s judiciary said the girl’s father’s case will be tried in a special court. Under the current law, her father faces a prison sentence from 3 to 10 years.
Iran’s vice president in charge of family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, expressed hope that a bill with harsher punishments will soon be in the final stages of approval.
Shahnaz Sajjadi, an aide to the president on human rights affairs, on Wednesday told the khabaronline.ir news website: “We should revise the idea that home is a safe place for children and women. Crimes that happen against women in the society are less than those that happen in the homes.”
Amnesty International condemned the killing and called on authorities to ensure full “accountability” for the crime.
“We call on Iran’s authorities & lawmakers to end the impunity for violence against women/girls & criminalize domestic violence. They must amend Article 301 of the Penal Code to ensure accountability proportionate to the severity of the crime, without resort to the death penalty,” Amnesty said in a statement on Twitter, Thursday.
There is little data on honor killings in Iran, where local media occasionally report on such cases. But human rights activists reported last year that they continued to occur among the rural and tribal populations, according to the US State Department.