An appalling video reportedly shared on social media, showing a smiling Iranian husband parading the severed head of his 17-year-old wife through the streets, is causing shock and outrage in the country and abroad.
The footage, obtained by the New York Post, reportedly shows Sajjad Heydari grinning as he strolled through a neighborhood in Ahvaz, a city in southwestern Iran, on Saturday, Feb. 5, with his wife Mona Heydari’s head in one hand and a bloodied blade in the other.
The incident was first reported by the state-run ROKNA news agency, according to the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The news agency was reportedly shut down after publishing the news and the accompanying video.
The committee said Mona Heydari was forced to marry Sajjad Heydari, who is also her cousin, when she was 12 years old. She reportedly suffered constant domestic abuse and often sought a divorce or an escape from her home. Each time, however, her family persuaded her to return for the sake of her 3-year-old child.
Directly preceding her gruesome murder, Mona Heydari had fled to Turkey to escape her husband's violence. She reportedly returned under assurances of her safety, only to be tied down by her husband and his brother and decapitated.
Sajjad Heydari then reportedly clutched her head and walked through the streets with it before fleeing.
(Warning: The following video contains graphic content that may be disturbing to viewers)
A police official reportedly said the motive for the murder was "family differences."
The women's committee said the crime was an "honor killing," or an act of murder by a male family member when a female counterpart is perceived to have brought dishonor on the family. Such killings are reportedly prevalent in Iran.
The Independent reported that the husband and his brother were arrested, though it is not clear what charges they may face.
Yonah Diamond, an international human rights lawyer who focuses on justice issues in Iran and other repressive regimes, told the news outlet that blame should be placed on Iranian authorities.
"The Iranian authorities enabled the barbaric beheading of Mona Heydari — a child bride — for seeking a divorce from a violently abusive marriage, and bear full responsibility," he said. "This is not an isolated murder in Iran, nor did it happen in a vacuum."
He added: "It occurred under a legal system and officials targeting women rights defenders, including those who educate women on their rights in marriage like Hoda Amid and Najmeh Vahedi, with harsher sentences — lengthier prison time, lashes, solitary confinement, and abuse — than the men who brutally murder their wives or daughters."
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, which is based in New York, also told the Independent, "The beheaded child bride might be alive today if Iran's government had enacted laws against the cruel practice of child marriage and protections against domestic violence. Iran's government is as responsible for her death as her murderers."