When the Law Protects Honor Killings




Murder of a human being by the hands of another is a primeval behavior. Throughout history murders and massacres driven by scarcity of resources and have ensued in wars and persisted by individuals and governments alike. In fact, murder is one of few primitive human acts that has not yet been universally disavowed and one that it evidently endures in many societies.

To restore order, one of the most important laws that people have established is the prohibition of murder for any cause (except in self-defense) and restriction of crimes that are punishable by the death penalty. Moreover in many civilized societies the death penalty is perceived as state-sanctioned murder and has been entirely abolished.

Western powers, in their interactions with the Islamic Republic of Iran have frequently noted the systematic violation of human rights in the country. Defenders of human rights in Iran, despite their limited access to communication have presented significant evidence and documents revealing the ongoing violations of human rights to the international community.

One of the issues that requires greater emphasis and awareness is the existence of provisions in the Islamic Republic’s law which protect the arbitrary murder of one citizen by another. “Honor killings” and “reputational killings” are among such murders that according to the laws of the Islamic Republic are acceptable and immune from punishment.

Honor killings are murders in which a male member of the family (father, husband, uncleand brother) kills his own wife, sister, daughter or niece based on claims of her engagement in inappropriate relations with a man and which tarnish the reputation of the family. According to the Iranian legal system, which is derived from Islamic law, in such cases, the man who has murdered his family member is immune from punishment.

Considering that women, girls and children are by-and-large the vast majority of victims in these killings, the international community and public opinion must urgently address this phenomenon of “honor killings” in Iran and the legal provisions that protect the murderers from punishment while compromising the women at-risk.

Human rights activists must do their utmost to raise public awareness about these archaic and chauvinistic laws of the Islamic Republic and demand that Western countries advocate for the alteration of these inhumane laws in all their negotiations with this country.

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