Iranians across the nation, and across the globe, have taken to social media to express their sorrow and anger over the death of a 14-year-old girl from a small city in the Northern Gilan province of Iran. Romina Ashrafi was brutally killed at the hands of her father. According to news reports, Ashrafi eloped with her 35-year-old boyfriend against her father’s demands. After both families objected, police stepped in and returned Romina to her father, despite her protests and fears for her safety. Under the guise of the archaic and draconian notion of “honor killing,” Romina’s father heinously killed his young daughter as she slept.
Though Romina’s father was arrested and confessed to the killing, Iran’s penal code limits the prison sentence in such cases to only three to ten years. The case of Romina Ashrafi highlights not only the many injustices of Iran’s judiciary system, but also of its patriarchal structure, which enables gender discrimination. Of the condemnations from Iranians, many have noted outdated marriage laws that allow Iranian girls to be wed as young as 13 years old. They argue that while Romina may have wanted to marry her significantly older boyfriend, such a union with a minor should not be allowed in the first place. That Romina was returned to her father and that her father’s punishment for her killing her will be reduced because of his paternity, further illustrates how Iran’s legal system undermines the rights of women and relinquishes control over their lives to men.
Nothing can rectify the loss of this innocent young life, but given the horrific nature of the crime, a reduced sentence is yet another cruelty. Iranians are rightly demanding justice for Romina, and a justice system that is deserving of the name. With public pressure mounting, President Rouhani has asked his cabinet to expedite bills addressing “honor killings” and harsher punishments within the sphere of family affairs. Masoumeh Ebtekar, the vice president of Iran’s Women and Family Affairs, echoed Rouhani in calling to prioritize relevant bills, she added that there would be a special investigation into Romina’s case. These modest steps are welcome, however, Iranian officials must address their deeper foundational issues, which continue to degrade Iranian women and oppress them in everyday life.
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