After hanging at least four anti-government protesters, Islamic Iran's judiciary decided, not for the first time, to give a short jail term to a man who murdered his "unruly" wife last year.
Iran's regime has no qualms about executing those it deems the "undesirables" of the nation: political opponents, criminals and most recently anti-state protesters, often using the courts to issue extravagant charges against those it sends to be hanged.
And yet the same judiciary has recently given an eight-year jail sentence to a young man who murdered his wife in 2022. This was a notorious case of "honor killing" reported in February that year in the southern city of Ahwaz.
The convict, Sajjad Heidarnava, became a figure of macabre evil on social media when he was shown smiling and displaying his 17-year-old wife's severed head as a trophy in the neighborhood. His victim, Mona Heidari, had married Heidarnava, her cousin, some years earlier but insisted on a divorce before being killed.
Her father stressed then that she had not been forced into the marriage. That wasn't the first or only reported case of domestic killings in Iran that year, with most incidents consisting of men-on-women violence.
More brazen men
The state may have made certain men more brazen at home through moralizing propaganda, measures such as curbs on contraception and calls to boost the family, and a sense among some Iranians that the state may even let you get away with murder if "the family" is at stake.
In mid-2022, the judiciary also gave "light-ish" jail sentences to an elderly couple from Tehran who had murdered and dismembered their son, film director Babak Khorramdin, in 2021, their daughter three years before and their son-in-law a decade earlier, all apparently as punishment for their moral corruption.
These misogynistic laws permit confused men to blithely commit crimes against women.
In Heidari's case, her immediate family reportedly agreed to have her husband face punishment only for the "crime in its general aspect," which courts decided meant a jail term of eight years and two months. Presumably, they could have asked for his execution in keeping with the law of talion (which legislators have demanded be applied to protesters accused of killing state agents in recent mass protests). An accomplice in Heidari's killing, Heidar Heidarnava, was to be jailed for 45 months.
Following that murder, the Professional Association of Teachers issued a statement to say that "retrograde laws at present are inflicting the gravest harm on women in Iranian society and entirely contradict the will of the nation, social customs and the views of Iranian women today... These misogynistic laws permit confused men to blithely commit crimes against women who refused, as sisters, mothers or wives, to live in the framework of predominant, reactionary and traditional beliefs. Iran's governing system as a whole is directly responsible for the continuation of these backward laws."
The judiciary appeared to sympathize with Heidari's husband and parents from the start of the case. Days after the murder, the Ahwaz chief prosecutor Abbas Husseini-Puya seemed to be blaming her for her own death, saying "this young lady fled to Turkey and from there sent some pictures to her husband, which provoked his feelings."
There seemed to be extenuating circumstances for the judiciary then. Yet this same judiciary saw none for the four protesters it executed in recent weeks — with shocking haste — for their participation in rioting and protests in which state agents died.
Judiciary seems to see extenuating circumstances in honor killings but none for protesters.
Loredana Sangiuliano/SOPA Images/ZUMA Press Wire
Same judiciary, different sentences
Some Iranians may wonder if it were coincidental that the eight-year sentence was announced on the 40th day of the execution of the first detained protester, Mohsen Shekari, which is a day of mourning for relatives.
Shekari was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 25, effectively convicted of being a terrorist ("waging war on God" and terrorizing the public in an armed attack), sentenced to death, and hanged by Dec. 8.
He was barely given a chance to defend himself and refused a lawyer of his choice. The state executed three other protesters in similar circumstances with reports indicating it gave only summary attention to the evidence, and dozens of other detainees are facing similar charges.
Yet the same judiciary, tasked with upholding the laws of religion, concluded that stabbing and beheading your wife did not constitute an attack on the moral order or the social peace.