Police have arrested a 28-year-old man who ran away with a 14-year-old girl in Iran, on charges of kidnapping, after the father of the girl beheaded her in an act of “honor killing”.
Romina Ashrafi was killed with a sickle in the northern province of Gilan. Her father was detained after widespread reaction to the tragedy across the country and on social media.
In their latest reports on the tragic case of the "honor-killing", local media have cited the girl’s relatives as saying that Bahman Khavari posted pictures of himself and Romina on social media and sent messages to the thirteen-year-old girl's father, telling him that "Romina is now my wife”, making him “angry”.
However, in a video interview published on the internet, Khavari insists that only one single picture of him beside Romina was posted on social media.
"It was Romina's idea to publish our picture together online to highlight the fact that I had not kidnapped her", Khavari told Faraz News.
Furthermore, Khavari, who belongs to the Sunni minority in Iran, asserts that he is 28-year-old and not 34 as media reported earlier. The age of the girl was also reported as 13 initially.
Every year in Iran, women, and girls are killed by their male relatives under the guise of defending their honor.
The exact number of the so-called honor-killings in Iran is not known, but in 2014, a Tehran police official reported that 20 percent of murders in Iran were honor killings.
Islamic laws in the country give custody of unmarried women to fathers or brothers, and some consider them their “honor”, or “namoos” in Persian.
A news website run by the influential Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Tasnim, says that Khavari has also been charged with "inciting" Romina's father to behead her. If true, this also shows how the ruling ideology in the country encourage men to treat women as a matter of their personal “honor”.
"I’m 28 and now, everyone comes forward and leaves a (deploring) comment on my posts. Well, I don't mind, everyone has a conscience. Nevertheless, when a wealthy seventy-year-old man marries a twenty-year-old girl, because he has money…it’s not a crime. But when I loved her and she loved me and I respected her, is that a crime?" Khavari said hours before his arrest, adding, "The only crime I have committed is being a Sunni."
The murder of Romina Ashrafi by her father, 37-year-old Reza Ashrafi, has deeply shocked Iranians in and outside the country.
Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi tweeted that the country’s regressive laws enabled Romina’s murder.
"Laws that permit domestic violence, honor killings, child abuse & child marriage do not belong in the 21st century," the Prince, who lives in Maryland, USA, tweeted, noting, “The solution is a return to secular laws.”
Amnesty International also condemned the killing and called on the Islamic Republic authorities to ensure full "accountability" for the crime.
“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 [Islamic Republic] Penal Code to ensure accountability proportionate to the severity of the crime, without resort to the death penalty,” Amnesty said in its statement on Twitter, Thursday, May 28.