What is the Honour in Such Killings in Iran?
| Virendra Kumar Gaur, Former IG, BSF - 31 May 2020

In Iran, like many other Middle Eastern countries, women are being killed by their fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles and other closely-related male family members in the name of protecting the honour of their families. An innocent teen ager Romina Ashrafi, 13,   was killed recently by her father after she eloped with an older man aged 35. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has called for swift action to outlaw so-called “honour killings”.


What is the honour in such killings in Iran or in any country? Romina Ashrafi’s recent killing in the Iranian town of Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran, has sparked a nationwide outcry.

She was reportedly beheaded while sleeping by her father, Reza Ashrafi, who used a farming sickle to kill his daughter.

The father, who is now in custody, was apparently enraged after she ran away with her 34-year-old boyfriend Bahamn Khavari in Talesh. In rural areas of Iran, it’s unheard of for teenage girls to run away from home to be with their boyfriends. Reza Ashrafi, who is now in custody, is accused of using a farming sickle to behead her as she slept.

After the nationwide reactions, the Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has called for swift action to outlaw so-called “honour killings” after the death of a 14-year-old Iranian girl allegedly at the hands of her father prompted a nationwide outcry.

President Rouhani urged his cabinet to act after Romina Ashrafi was allegedly killed by her father for running away with her boyfriend, 34-year-old Bahamn Khavari, in Talesh, 320km (198 miles) north-west of Tehran.

The fact is, proposed legislation against so-called “honour killings” in Iran has apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in the country. Now, the Iran’s judiciary has assured that Romina’s case will be tried in a special court. Under the present law, her father faces up to 10 years in prison.

The innocent teen ager Romina Ashrafi, 13,   was killed by her father after she eloped with an older man aged 35. Killing of the teen ager has  sparked outrageous  discussion about the lenient punishments given to fathers who kill their children.

The killing by her father sparked outrage on 27 May. The national local media of Iran denounced “institutionalized violence.”

Iranian media covered the apparent “honour” crime extensively, with Ebtekar newspaper leading its front page with the headline “Unsafe father’s house.”

According to local media, Romina Ashrafi was killed in her sleep on May 21 by her father, who decapitated her in the family home in Hovigh, Talesh in northern Gilan province, some 320 km northwest of Tehran. The teenager was beheaded while she slept by her father, who used a farming sickle.

The reports said her father had refused her permission to marry a man many years her senior, spurring her to run away, but she was returned home after her father reported disappearance to police.

In Iran, honor killings occur primarily among tribal minority groups, such as Kurdish, Arab, Lori, Baluchi, and Turkish-speaking tribes or in rural areas.

Such honor killings are particularly prevalent in the provinces of Kordistan and Ilam, Iran. Discriminatory family laws, articles in the Criminal Code that show leniency towards honor killings, and a strongly male dominated society have been cited as causes of honor killings in Iran.

Although, in recent years, the Iranian society has become more liberal, but the legal status of women has been declining due to systematic measures taken by the state.

Iran, since 2012, has been planning to turn its effective Family and Population Planning Programme on its head to promote population growth. The initiative for the change had then come directly from the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.

Since then, according to that new population growth policy in Iran, women are encouraged to marry at a younger age and stay at home instead of working or studying, in order to have time to give birth to more children.

This is aimed to double Iran’s population, where the birth rate has declined dramatically over the last couple of decades: while the average number of children per woman was five or six in the 1970s and 1980s, by 2013 it had dropped to just 1.9.

Two years ago, it was reported that one third of Iranian families only have one child or no children at all.

The legal marriage age in Iran is 13 for women. Iran media reported that after authorities detained the teenager, she told a judge she feared for her life if she was returned to home.

But what most outraged public opinion was the lenient punishment the father is likely to face. Local media note that Iran’s normal “eye for an eye” retributive justice does not apply to fathers who kill their children.

Accordingly he is likely to face three to 10 years in prison, a sentence that could be reduced further. There is “institutionalized violence” in Iran’s “patriarchal culture.”

President Hassan Rouhani “expressed his regrets” in a cabinet meeting on 27 May, pleading for enacting several anti-violence bills.

On Twitter, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar said a bill on the protection of young people was in the “final phase” of validation by Iran’s Guardian Council.

The council, to ensure compliance with Iran’s constitution and Islamic sharia law, has thrice previously called for changes to the law after it was passed by law makers.

In Iran honour killings are committed by male members of a family against women who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family.

Women are the only victims of honour killings all around the globe and killing a woman on the basis of family honour is one of the most severe forms of discrimination and violence against women.

In Iran, like many other Middle Eastern countries, women are being killed by their fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles and other closely-related male family members in the name of protecting the honour of their families.

The victims are perceived to have tarnished the image of the family by disagreeing with arranged marriages, losing their virginity before marriages, committing adultery, having male-companionship or even being raped.

Honour killings in Iran are usually planned in advance with silent approval of female members of the family even mothers and sisters of the victims. Due to sensitivity of the issue of family dignity, a great portion of these murders are not reported to the legal authorities or persecuted.

In recent surveys, more than twenty percent of murders in Iran are related to honour killing and this is the highest percentage of all the murders in the country. Prejudice, fanaticism, indispensable obedience of women from men, illiteracy and lack of proper education in under developed regions are important factors leading to the spread of honour killing in Iran.

The father, Reza Ashrafi, was said to be enraged after Romina fled the family home to marry a 35-year-old man she loved.Both the families complained to the authorities, and security forces detained Romina and her boyfriend, Bahamn Khavari, following a five-day hunt.

Romina reportedly told police she would be in danger at home and feared for her life, the girl was handed over to her father as required

 by Iranian laws.After killing Asharfi, the father allegedly turned himself in to police and confessed to the crime.Hovigh district Governor Kazem Razmi said the man was in custody, charged with murder.

He said the investigation into the case was still under way.

Under current law, her father faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted. However, according to the Islamic Penal Code, he was Romina's “guardian,” so he is exempt from “retaliation in kind,” meaning the death penalty in this case.

Iranian media occasionally report on cases related to honour killings carried out by relatives, usually male family members, when the actions of women and girls violate conservative traditions on love, marriage, and public behaviour. It is not known how many women and girls die from such killings.

In 2014, Tehran police had reported that 20 percent of all murders in the country were “honour” killings.

Romina's boyfriend apparently faces no penalty since under Iran’s laws, girls can marry after the age of 13, though the average age of marriage for Iranian women is 23.

Photo courtesy [Screen grab/Twitter Handles of Iran Freedom, @BehroozParhami / Women.ncr-iran.org 


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