The beheading of a 17-year-old in southern Iran by her husband, who then paraded her head through the streets and on social media, has prompted Iranians to accuse the clerical regime of encouraging such acts through systematic misogyny.
Horrific footage has been circulating this week online of a smiling man displaying the severed head of his 17-year-old wife in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz, beheaded for supposed "disobedience" after she'd tried to flee to Turkey.
The victim was reportedly murdered on Feb. 5 in what the local prosecutors have termed an "honor killing", allegedly perpetrated by the woman's husband and his brother. Police apprehended both men the same day.
Abbas Hosseini-Puya, chief prosecutor of the Ahvaz district, said the the victim's father had first brought his daughter back to Iran from Turkey where she had reportedly fled. When the husband realized she was in Ahvaz, he tracked her down and carried out the gruesome murder, before parading her decapitated head in his neighborhood as someone recorded on a telephone.
Shocking public opinion
Hosseini-Puya said authorities would seek out those who had recorded images "shocking to public opinion." In addition to the murder itself, he said, "beheading this woman in public is itself a crime."
The website Rokna, which posted the video, faces possible penalties for an "attack on public morale." A Rokna editor tweeted in response that blocking such images "will not end honor killings." The website, he added, simply posted what others had already seen on social media.
Cropped screenshot of the video showing the man smiling as he parades his wife's head through the streets of Ahvaz
The incident has indeed shocked Iranians. Many social media users wrote they would neither watch nor post the pictures. Others have accused the Islamic Republic's laws of favoring male authority at home. Hashtags used on Twitter included "Taliban", "Talibanism", "Anti-female Laws", "Right to Life" or "Child Brides".
Iran's current government has made no secret of its commitment to would-be family values. President Ebrahim Raisi has said that courts in Iran should not fast-track even consensual divorces, and that in general, divorce should not be made easy. Indeed, such crimes are often perpetrated by men in a bid to prevent a looming divorce.
Laws on women's rights
Mona Heidari has thus joined the list of other recent female victims of male ire including Rumina Ashrafi, 14, Mobina Suri, 16, Somayyeh Fathi, 18 and Fatemeh Borhi, 19. The perpetrators are typically punished with a few years in jail or a fine.
Iranians lashed out online, accusing the regime of being ultimately responsible for such crimes, because of its permissiveness toward male violence and the misogyny it foments.
The timing is also a cruel coincidence: close to the 43rd anniversary of the 1979 revolution on Friday. As one of the first acts of the revolution's leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the state abolished the Law to Protect the Family and all other laws protecting women's rights.
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