Iran: Cruel honor killing of Romina Ashrafi

Planned legislative reform is not believed to be of significance/ On the anniversary of the demonstrations of June the 12th, 2006, the ISHR demands more safety and rights for women in Iran

Frankfurt/Gilan, 10 June 2020 –  Women´s rights in Iran have been majorly restricted in the past decades. The most recent example of this is the honor killing of Romina Ashrafi. On May the 24th 2020 the 14-year-old was decapitated by her father in the city of Talesh in the north of Iran because she ran off with her older boyfriend. Reza Ashrafi, the father, is now kept in custody. He is facing 3 to 10 years of prison, a comparatively mild sentence. The case garners huge international attention, shortly before the anniversary of the protests of June the 12th, 2020, when protesters demanded equal rights for women. The demonstration was violently put down by national security forces and protesters were randomly arrested. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) has campaigned and championed women´s rights in Iran for years now. “Women are still treated as second class citizens in Iran. This has to change”, demands the ISHR.

Romina Ashrafi

Lack of safety for women

Romina Ashrafi is one of many victims of so called “honor killings” in Iran. The term describes the killing of mostly female family members, who have violated a certain norm or rule of behavior. The killing is seen as a measure to avert the dishonoring of the family. The latest case has put the issue at the center of public attention in Iran again and the voices for gender equality have become louder. It has been reported throughout the international press as well as various social media platforms in order to highlight the lacking legislation for the protection of women and their systematic discrimination.

President Hassan Rouhani officially spoke out in support of a legislative reform to increase punishment for honor killings. In it, violence against women was not specifically addressed, however, gender segregation on university campuses was demanded. According to an expert, the proposed reforms only strengthen women´s rights in individual cases. The overall situation of women would, however, not improve, even if the legislative reform passes. The ISHR therefore sees Rouhani´s statement as “empty words to calm down the population and to deceive them”. As the president knows very well, the conservative judiciary would reject such reform efforts and would always advocate the supremacy of men´s rights.

Anniversary of 2006 demonstration

The killing took place shortly before the 14th anniversary of the demonstrations of June the 12th, 2006, which, according to the ISHR, is a “historic day for women´s rights in Iran”. Back then the protesters on the Hafte-Tir square demanded equal rights for women in Iran. After the peaceful protest was violently put down and many people were arrested, 54 women´s rights activist, amongst others the peace nobel prize laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi, started a campaign for women´s rights called “one million signatures”. In 2007 the campaign successfully prevented a paragraph of the newly proposed family law to pass, which stated that a man would not need the approval of his first wife to marry a second woman.

Background: the fight for equality in Iran

Since the presidential elections of 2009 women´s rights activists in Iran have been heavily monitored, harassed and arbitrarily arrested. The ISHR wants to highlight that the Iranian legislation, which goes back to the Islamic revolution, generally privileges men. On a daily basis men make all the major decisions of a woman´s life, including whether there is a “need for retribution” after a crime has been committed. A renown, imprisoned women´s rights activist is the human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has represented Dr. Shirin Ebadi after she was arrested in June 2006. Nasrin Sotoudeh is held on the charges such as “propaganda which is hostile to the state”, “insult of the supreme leader” and “espionage” and has been sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes. Currently she is kept at the infamous Evin-prison in Teheran. The ISHR and the App MyPostcard have started a postcard campaign to draw attention to her story and to increase international pressure on the Iranian regime.

Information regarding the postcard campaign for Nasrin Sotoudeh