A search for the name “Azam” is enough to bring up rows of photographs of a woman, her face covered with wounds and burns. In what has been reported to have been one of the worst cases of domestic violence in Iran, Azam and her two daughters were imprisoned in their home in Mashhad and were tortured for a full 21 days without food.
The torturer was Azam’s husband. He was also the father of their two daughters, aged eight and five, and a crystal meth addict. According to Azam, over the 21-day period, her husband forced her into a metal box and then lit a fire under it. She reported that her husband had terrorized the three of them, burning them with a lighter. The older daughter has a broken jaw and has had three teeth knocked out. The younger daughter’s body is black and blue with bruises.
The story has been widely covered in Iranian media, with journalists and the general public asking just how such a horrific crime could go unnoticed for so long. Questions have also arisen as to the suitability of Iranian laws to deal with such crimes adequately.
According to Azam, her husband had been hallucinating that she was cheating on him. One night he dragged a strange man into their home and demanded to know if he was having an affair with his wife. When the man saw the condition Azam and the children were in, he rushed off and called the police. The husband ran off but was soon arrested.
The Iranian Students News Agency reported this was not the first time that Azam had been battered by her husband . She had filed complaints against him twice, but each time she had withdrawn the complaint after he threatened her with more violence. Her husband’s sister had apparently been aware of what was happening, but had been too scared to do anything about it.
Azam and her two daughters are now at a recovery and care center. At first, a bail amount of around $6500 was set for Azam’s husband, leading to a wave of indignation on social networks. But on April 24, Azam’s lawyer Marzieh Mohebbi reported that, following a forensic report, the bail had been voided by the order of Mashhad’s assistant prosecutor and that the accused would remain in jail until after his trial.
The Welfare Organization of Mashad province announced that it had assigned a special team of psychologists and psychiatrists to tend to Azam and her daughters.
The prosecutor ordered that the case be expedited and the first session of the husband’s trial was held on April 24. At the trial, he confessed to his horrific acts, including injuring his wife’s face with a nail clipper and burning his daughters’ bodies with a lighter.
When the news of Azam and her daughters’ ordeal became public, several members of parliament demanded an immediate investigation.
I spoke with Moussa Ghazanfar-Abadi, a member of parliament’s Judiciary Committee, about the case.
Has the Judiciary Committee looked at this particular case of domestic violence?
Yes. Many MPs, especially the representative from Mashhad, insisted that the case be pursued with utmost speed so this sort of thing can’t happen again. Unfortunately, these things do happen from time to time. I believe they are the result of psychological problems.
This woman was tortured for 21 days. Isn’t there a way the law can be improved to help victims in these cases faster and let them know the law can protect them?
We cannot intrude into the private lives of the people. The offense must become a public matter before the law can act. At the point it becomes public, then the prosecutor can act and the law is applied.
The initial bail set for the perpetrator — the husband —was set at 20 million tomans (around $6,500). Considering the seriousness of the crime, the bail look insignificant.
According to the media, a bail of 20 million tomans was not logical. It does not make sense for a person to commit such acts and then be released on such a small bail. But after forensics experts issued their report, I was told the bail had been voided. So now the accused will remain in detention until he is tried. I believe this decision to be more appropriate.
What kind of punishment can make amends for the violence this man has inflicted on his wife and children?
We should think about deterrent punishments to prevent the repeat of such offenses. The punishments must fit the crimes, and the cases must be processed fast so that within a week a verdict can be issued. If these two considerations are taken into account, I believe the punishments will work as a deterrence.
How can we prevent such incidents taking place in society?
Fortunately, the law is not deficient in this regard. The laws of our country are comprehensive enough to correlate any offense to an appropriate punishment. Our most important duty is to educate. People must be informed about their rights. We must also identify the underlying reasons to prevent the reoccurrence of such painful incidents. I hope we can achieve this with the cooperation of all responsible agencies.