May 29, 2020 – The tragedy of the brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl has extended to the upper echelons of the Iranian government; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has announced new legislation that will punish anyone who murders a woman and/or girl for the supposed violation of social or religious customs.
This particular case involved Romina Ashrafi, a teenager from the small town of Talesh, Northern Iran, who was murdered by her own father Reza Ashrafi, is now in custody, after confessing to using a sickle to behead her while she slept.
News reports claim that Ashrafi had a romantic relationship with an older man who is believed to be between the ages of 29 and 34. She eloped with him earlier this year, but was caught by Iranian police. Reports from Radio Farda state that Ashrafi begged authorities not to be sent back to her home, fearing for her life. Her father subsequently convinced local officials that he just wanted his daughter to be back home safely.
The night she returned, her father viciously murdered her in her own bed. He later went to the local police station and confessed to committing the murder to “protect his family’s honor.”
According to the BBC, a number of news outlets highlighted Ashrafi’s story on their front pages which “lamented the failure of existing legislation to protect” women. The hashtag #Romina_Ashrafi has been used over 50,000 times on Twitter.
So-called “honor killings” have been documented in almost every country of the world, but are especially common in Iran and parts of the Middle East.
On Wednesday, President Rouhani urged his cabinet to accelerate laws against such crimes. He is pushing for expedited adoption of the legislation, since previously proposed laws regarding these types of crimes have struggled to pass.
The heinous murder of #RominaAshrafi at the hands of her father was enabled by the regressive laws of the regime in Iran. Laws that permit domestic violence, honor killings, child abuse & child marriage do not belong in the 21st century. The solution is a return to secular law. https://t.co/Iv0mr0y08q— Reza Pahlavi (@PahlaviReza) May 26, 2020
While there are known cases where family members have been arrested and even taken to trial, convictions and punishment are rare.
“Under current law, [Romina’s] father faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years if convicted. 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’ according to the article from Radio Farda.
The murder victim often receives no justice. Any family members or friends who support the victim are often ostracized and carry the stigma of trying to defend someone who “brought shame on the family.”
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We are horrified to learn that 13-year-old Romina Ashrafi was beheaded in her sleep by her father in an "honour killing" in #Iran. We're appalled that the Iranian authorities repeatedly ignored Romina's pleas for protection from her violent and abusive father. We call on Iran's authorities & lawmakers to end the impunity for violence against women/girls & criminalize domestic violence. They must amend Article 301 of the Penal Code to ensure accountability proportionate to the severity of the crime, without resort to the death penalty.
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As Twitter users and Instagram accounts continue to shed light on Ashrafi’s death, the Iranian government remains committed to bringing her justice.