Honour Killing 1: Mona Heydari’s viral femicide shows patriarchy horror

TNF publishes the first article of three about an extreme type of violence against women and girls: honour killing. Follow TNF next week for more knowledge on this horrific practice women fear and face in many cultures.

It is incomprehensible when your own family drags you straight to a gruesome death because priorities are focussed on your husband’s alleged honour. Back in early February 2022, social media ran rampant with a viral video of child bride Mona Heydari’s husband parading the streets of Ahvaz (Iran) with her severed head in one hand and a knife in the other.

At the age of 17, she faced a fate familiar to women in extremist patriarchal societies which practise honour-based traditions.

“Mona was a victim of devastating ignorance. We are all responsible for this crime,” Iranian filmmaker and feminist, Tamineh Milani, captioned her Instagram post lamenting the horrific death of young Mona.

Honour killings have continued at a consistent rate, with a reported thousand killings per year within Central Asia. UNODC has speculated that the amount may be severely underestimated though, as numerous cases are lost within stacks of crime reports.

A life of domestic violence

Mona was forced to marry her cousin at 12 years old. He subjected her to a life of domestic violence. Deprived of safety in her own country, she fled Iran.

She allegedly followed a man to Turkey, prompting raging accusations for her disregard of her husband’s honour, hence shaming his reputation altogether. Refusing her family’s beckoning offer to come home, Mona had finally sought refuge, away from a life of domestic violence.

Her family reached out to her, coercing her to return home. They promised that she would not be harmed and to return home with a clean slate. She considered her best choice, prompted by their heavy assurance that she would be forgiven, was to take up their offer.

Several days upon returning home, the streets of Mona’s hometown were served with a horrific showcase of her husband, Sajjad Heydari, parading her decapitated head with a bloodied knife.

Global public outrage

Mona’s slaughter led to a civilian recording the horrific ordeal on camera and posting it online, capturing the live parade of Sajjad Heydari’s crime. Footage caught him fervently pacing the streets, with a sly smirk, alerting society of patriarchal justice restored.

The video went viral with camera shots catching his expression. It was an amplification of pride that honour had prevailed.

Camera shots catching the murderer’s expression went viral on the internet

As this video went viral, outrage sparked across the internet due to the horrible crime and the audacious sequence of events that followed through. This garnered extreme disbelief from the public, in response to Sajjad’s pride, having re-established what he considered his honour through the egregious femicide of his wife.

Activists, thus took to the internet, furious over what society still sees as a prize, having snatched a woman’s life and proclaimed victorious by displaying her body parts for everyone to know her sins had been dealt with.

What has happened to the murderer?

Sources have claimed that Sajjad was arrested together with his brother who was allegedly involved in the crime. They confessed to the murder during the police investigation and the relative accounts were provided.

The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran provided notes describing the homicide. Sajjad and his brother tied her hands and feet to keep her immobile and beheaded her. They wrapped her body in a blanket and disposed of it. Accounts of where the body had been disposed of have not been provided.

As both men have been brought into custody, what becomes of the criminals has not been reported by the media. The Iranian news media was deliberately shut down after broadcasting the viral video that, they claimed, caused disturbances in society. 

The outcome of their crimes is yet to be confirmed. The case has, therefore, not been met with any follow-ups.

Family complicity in femicide

Regarding Mona’s unbearable life at home with her husband, her father, Javad, stated that he had never suspected any unusual behaviour within their marriage.

”It’s true, there was fighting between them, and sometimes there was violence and she would return home, but she only stayed for two or three days and then he would pick her up and life would return to normal”, he said. “These fights between husband and wife are completely normal and I don’t think there was a problem as she did not ask for a divorce.”

Mona with her father Javad (left) and an uncle. Photo: Newsflash

As an alternate option, Mona sought refuge at a battered woman’s shelter but her family had assisted to bring her back to her home, again, a likely guilt trip back into an abusive lifestyle.

Javad had further offered praise for Sajjad and his role as a responsible husband who worked hard to support his family and sought to provide the best life for them.

The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCIR) had, however, claimed Mona had repeatedly consulted for a divorce from her family and was firmly encouraged not to do so for the sake of their child.

Reportedly, there have been no further comments provided by her family expressing remorse for the murder of their daughter. Their comments only serve to support and protect the dignity of Sajjad Heydari.

There is also a lack of concern for their child growing up with the knowledge that his father murdered his teenage mother.

Women are owned by men

The NCRI has explained the priorities of a woman’s role within such societies as second class citizens, owned by the men in the family, and are to be dealt with in accordance with the elder’s discretion.

Traditionally, when women have been married off, they are officially their husbands’ responsibility and their family will not interfere. It is not within their rights, and they are often coerced to go back to their husbands before uneasy news reaches the ears of relatives or the community and it becomes the talk of the town.

Household affairs are dealt with in the absence of any kind of interference from the women’s family members.

International human rights organisations claimed 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.

Much of the anger is aimed at the difficulty of eradicating misogynistic tales deeply rooted in the upbringing of societies where a woman’s worth is to uphold the honour of a man. Whilst law enforcers have seen Sajjad and his accomplice detained, it is more to do with the fact, that the legal system is reacting more rather than taking proactive measures to create harsher consequences in relation to femicide and violence against women and girls.

“We cannot be silent. We cannot continue as spectators. Every one of us should do everything in our power in bringing justice to women, in raising awareness toward honour crimes,” formerly known Iranian actress Ladan Tabatabai said. She testifies regret over the flawed functions of society and the judicial system that ceases to protect women from violence.