Mona Heydari, an Iranian girl, was brutally murdered in early February, shocking the world. After beheading his 17-year-old wife, Sajjad Heydari displayed her severed head through the streets of Ahvaz, Iran, in an attempt to prove that he is an honorable man. He was seen smiling in footage of the horrific event that was posted online.
She was the victim of domestic violence and a forced marriage when she was 12 years old and leaves behind a 3-year-old child who now lives with his grandmother. She had filed for divorce multiple times, but her family convinced her to stay with her husband for the sake of her child each time. Mona eventually escaped to Turkey to flee her husband’s abuse. According to the Ahvaz prosecutor, the victim’s father returned his daughter to Iran.
Mona Heydari’s murder, which was reported on February 5, is the most recent case of an honor killing in which it is mostly women killed by male relatives on the grounds that they have dishonored their family by eloping, committing adultery, requesting a divorce, or even making unfounded accusations of tarnishing the family’s reputation.
Many in Iran have condemned the Islamic legal system for creating a climate that allows for such a crime, which comes less than two years after Romina Ashrafi, a 14-year-old girl, was decapitated by her father in northern Iran. Ashrafi’s father was sentenced to eight years in prison after consulting with a lawyer prior to killing her to determine the severity of the punishment he could face.
Iranian laws permit men to commit different acts of violence against women with little or no repercussions. Article 302 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, for example, specifies that a man can legitimately kill someone for committing a felony punishable by death under Sharia (Islamic) law, including adultery. A woman in Iran, on the other hand, would never be able to walk free after murdering her adulterous husband and will face execution.
Indeed, there’s no certainty that Sajjad Heydari will face charges, and stories in Iranian media suggest that Mona Heydari’s father may never pursue justice for his daughter. Attempts to offer better legal protections for girls and women have long been stopped by Parliament from becoming law.
Other parts of Iranian legislation, in addition to mild sentences for fathers and husbands for abuse against girls and women, exacerbate the problem. A woman, for example, cannot leave the marital home unless she has proof that she is in danger, and if she does depart, she forfeits her financial support. Orders of protection do not exist, and there are few shelters for abused women throughout much of the country. The police regard family violence to be a family concern in general.
Furthermore, widespread child marriage causes many girls to feel compelled to flee, leaving them vulnerable to honor killings. In the meantime, Iran’s legal marriage age for girls is 13. If their father or male guardian obtains a judge’s approval, younger girls can be married off. Mona’s father stated that she received court consent to marry at the age of 12.
According to the latest numbers from Iran’s Statistical Center, 9,753 girls aged 10 to 14 were married in the spring of 2021, a 32 percent rise over the previous spring. Low-cost state marriage loans have spurred the rise, which parents have increasingly sought to take advantage of by marrying off their young daughters. However, the United Nations estimates that each year, at least 17% of Iranian girls under the age of 18 are married off by their families. The need for victims to exit abusive marriages has been a common theme in honor killings in Iran. The victims are generally child brides who have been forced to marry.
Mona Heydari’s death has reignited debate among Iranians over the Iranian government’s failure to pass laws that would have better safeguarded her and other girls and women. These concerns have long sparked public outrage, and Iranians are now again debating them on social media in the wake of Mona Heydari’s death.