Across Iran, “honor killings” of young women are an all too common phenomenon and regularly make headlines these days. In a recent report from February 5, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, a young man was seen in Kassaei Square in Ahvaz carrying the head of a young woman who had been beheaded. Onlookers, including a group of mechanics fixing vehicles, recalled the boat murderer: “It’s his head; we brought it. The victim was identified as 17-year-old Mona (Qazal) Heidari.
Even several days after this traumatic event, eyewitnesses remain shocked, and a heavy atmosphere darkens from the scene. “An accident!? It was a disaster,” one man replied to a freelance journalist, who tried to shed light on other aspects of the crime. [officials] call it an accident when they would have to kill an entire town to qualify as a disaster.
The eyewitness added, “We traders couldn’t sleep or eat for three days. We were working when a vehicle stopped in the square, and a man got out with a girl’s head. We later understood that they left the decapitated corpse of the girl at Nasser Khosro Street and brought the head here to show it.
On the same day, the semi-official Rokna site published the video of the man and the story. A day later, officials said the website had been taken down due to the posting of the video. In response, on February 8, judiciary spokesperson Zabihollah Khodaeian said, “These cases harm public opinion and have a psychological impact.
However, observers believe the government is trying to downplay the crime. They reminded people of the re-banning of ‘Khane Pedari’ [Father’s House] film about “honour killings” in Iran two years earlier. In particular, justice had taken legal action against film producers, including director Kianush Ayyari.
Mona is not the first case
Mona Heidari was forced to marry her husband Sajjad when she was 14. Fearing violence and threats from her husband, Mona fled to Turkey. However, her father eventually convinced her to return to Iran, where Sajjad waited to kill her.
“In our district, everyone called Sajjad weak. He showed Mona’s head to say he was a zealous man. My son had already threatened to behead Mona,” moaned Sajjad’s mother, trying to escape the murderer.
Under Iran’s misogynist system, Mona Heidari was neither the first victim of “honour killings” nor the last. Indeed, the constitution of the Islamic Republic has institutionalized gender discrimination, allowing men to commit what they want against women, especially against their wives, sisters and daughters, with impunity.
Young women from various fields with the same destiny
In recent years, many women across the country have been victims of these heinous crimes. Among the emblematic cases is Mobina Souri, 14, strangled with her headscarf by her husband, a young cleric, on August 30, 2021, in the Suri region in the western province of Lorestan.
On August 21, 2021, mother-of-one Sabri Nalbandi, 24, was murdered by her husband in Takab, North-Western Province of West Azerbaijan Province. Her husband burned down the house to remove evidence of her crime.
Earlier that month Sara Pirzadi was shot and killed by her cousin on August 8 for marrying another man, while two days earlier Reza Ahmadian, 42, opened fire on his wife and family in a garden in Sanandaj. Shilan Mondami, 24, had married Reza when she was 14 but had no children. The reason for her murder was that she had filed for divorce.
In May 2020, people were surprised by the callous beheading of 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi in the northern province of Gilan at the hands of her father, who decapitated her with a sickle. Romina was another victim of forced marriages.
These are just some of the harrowing murders committed in Iran under the label of “honour killings”, which is the term used by officials to downplay the seriousness of crimes against defenseless women. The government attributes these crimes to family matters, not only justifying violations of women’s rights, but also blaming men who show mercy to their wives or daughters.
“Any man whose wife leaves the house made up has no honor; no one sins if he calls such a man dishonorable,” reads a banner erected by the female paramilitary Basij Force affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Sarpole Zahab, in the western province of Kermanshah.
Honor killings of young women sanctioned by misogynistic laws