By Farnaz Fassihi
Before he beheaded his 14-year-old daughter with a farming sickle, Reza Ashrafi called a lawyer.
His daughter, Romina, was going to dishonor the family by running off with her 29-year-old boyfriend, he said. What kind of punishment, he asked the lawyer, would he get for killing her?
The lawyer assured him that as the girl’s guardian he would not face capital punishment but at most 3 to 10 years in jail, Mr. Ashrafi’s relatives told an Iranian newspaper.
Three weeks later, Mr. Ashrafi, a 37-year-old farmer, marched into the bedroom where the girl was sleeping and decapitated her.
This Conservatives dismiss any effort to change the law as succumbing to Western feminism.
The struggle for women’s rights has a long history in Iran but has suffered setbacks since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The women’s movement was finally dismantled as an organized effort in 2009, criminalized on grounds that it threatened national security.
Today its most prominent faces, including the Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and the feminist lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, are either in exile or in jail. Even Ms. Hashemi, whose father was president and a founding father of the revolution, was jailed.
“Women’s rights are politicized and criminalized making it very hard to channel this outrage on the ground into tangible action,” said Sussan Tahmasebi a women’s rights activist based in Tehran and Washington.
has also prompted a me-too moment on social media of women pouring out their own stories of abuse at the hands of male relatives in hopes of shedding light on a problem that is usually kept quiet.
Minoo, a 49-year-old mother of two in Tehran, said her husband had beaten their 17-year-old daughter when he spotted her with a male friend in the street.
Hanieh Rajabi, a Ph.D. student in philosophy, tweeted that her father had lashed her with a belt and kept her out of school for a week because she had walked home from class to buy ice cream instead of taking the school bus.
Others shared stories of rape, physical and emotional abuse and running away from home in search of safety.
Iranian women work as lawyers, doctors, pilots, film directors and truck drivers. They hold 60 percent of university seats and constitute 50 percent of the work force. They can run for office, and they hold seats in the Parliament and cabinet.
But there are restrictions. Women must cover their hair, arms and curves in public, and they need the permission of a male relative to leave the country, ask for a divorce or work outside the home.