From Child Marriage to Child Murder
Although this is not the first time that a horrific incident hurts public sentiment in the Iranian society, the tragic murder of Romina, an innocent girl who was a double victim of her family’s prejudice on the one hand and Iran’s medieval laws on the other, can be analyzed from several angles. Before dissecting this tragedy, let us first address the social context in which it occurred. For this purpose, two points must be considered. First, if it is possible to confirm the claim that Khavari, Romina’s suitor, ignited her father's anger after he showed him a photo of themselves in private, then his indirect role in this tragedy cannot be ignored.
The second point is the responsibility of the judge and the police force, which, after Romina's release from temporary detention and despite her begging, handed her over to her father. Instead of providing a shelter for the poor girl, they unintentionally set the stage for Romina's murder.
Paying attention to the above two issues will not diminish the cruelty and ugliness of a father who most violently kills his teenage child. Basically, the main culprit in this tragedy is Roman's father, but the punishment that is currently being given to him has nothing to do with the seriousness of his crime.
Consequences of Child Marriage and its Relation to Honor Killing
Although child marriage is inherently barbaric and unjust, the social consequences of this phenomenon, which we have witnessed over the forty years of the Islamic Republic's life, are that it provides grounds for such abuses as:
1- Justifying the maturity of underaged girls in Iran, in spite of the fact that in many countries, 18 is the customary and rational minimum age for marriage. This has caused old and wealthy men to give themselves the right to marry girls who are practically as young as their children or grandchildren. Although the predominant reason for accepting such marriages is financial hardship due to extreme poverty in the young girl's family, the father's ownership of the young girl's existence, which stems from religious beliefs or ethnic rules, should not be overlooked; it is cultural poverty added to economic poverty. But the institutionalization of child marriage has caused the ugliness of the age difference between rich and influential old men and very young girls to appear common and become the norm.
2- Due to the lack of serious laws to protect underage girls and the weakness of counseling and social relief institutions in Iran, which are mostly done under Behzisti (welfare) Organization, child marriage has exacerbated the situation for adolescent girls with psychological problems or emotional vacuum. What gave the 26-year-old Bahman Khavari the audacity to start an emotional relationship with a 12-year-old girl and to consider himself her boyfriend is the normalization of child marriage in deprived areas of Iran. When asked about his role in the tragedy of the death of a little girl, he implied his innocence and asked self-righteously: “It is not a crime when a rich 70-year-old man marries a 20-year-old girl, then why is my love for this girl and wanting to save her a crime?"
While the laws of the Islamic Republic have left unfortunate Romania's boyfriend free and in peace, the non-Islamic but humane laws in the West would consider any relationship of this kind with an underaged girl a serious and prosecutable crime.
3. Some of the so-called honor killings that occur in Iran are rooted in child marriage. Consider this situation: after years of living together, a girl who was forced to marry an old man is now an adult and sees that her life and youth are lost; she gets involved in a relationship that, though not legitimate, is commonplace and instinctive. Under such circumstances, the Islamic Republic's regressive rules allow maximum punishment to an elderly man whose wife has betrayed him without rooting out the behavior of a woman who was forcibly married off as a child.
Honor Killing and Regressive Laws
Unfortunately, some medieval laws of the Islamic Republic, allow men to treat their daughters or sisters in a possessive manner. In other words, in many traditional families, women are stuck in a hollow prejudice called 'honor' and do not have a haven and freedom of choice. Such phenomena lead men to believe that women are their absolute property after marriage. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Islamic laws of the judicial system also legitimize patriarchal behavior.
Article 220 of the Islamic Penal Code stipulates that the father will not face the death penalty for the murder of his child but merely pays blood money. Not only does the law itself exempt most perpetrators of "honor killing" from heavy penalties, but it also gives others the audacity to justify their violent behavior on account of the family’s honor. This has been one of the reasons for the rising rate of such killings in Iran.
According to published reports in Iran, about 50 percent of all domestic homicides are related to honorkilling, which accounts for 20 percent of all homicides. The main factors that led to the tragedy of Romina's murder are as follows:
1- The best evidence of the medieval laws of the Islamic Republic is the text of Article 220 of the Islamic Penal Code and the violent behavior of the Islamic Republic with critics of such laws. The government's response to the double censorship of Kianoosh Ayari's The Paternal House last November and the prosecution of its production crew are further evidence of this claim.
2. A father whose religious bigotry or traditional dogmatism silenced the voice of his young child with ISIS-like brutality in order to prevent a scandal that was echoed by those around him.
3. A man who abused the pure feelings of a young girl and contributed to her death and is now resorting to the empty claim that the only reason Romina's father opposed their marriage was his status as a "Sunni" and not his age.
4. Given the traditional and religious context of the Romina's family and those around them in areas of zealous devotion to honor, the judge and the police officer had to anticipate what dire fate awaits Romina, but ignored the girl's supplication and handed her over to a backward and archaic father.