While cases of gun violence in Iran are extremely rare, domestic violence has been a fact of life for Iranian women throughout history.
The high-profile killing is shocking on its own merits. Yet the way the story unfolded publicly, with the help of real-time coverage by the state broadcaster, has created an utterly grotesque allegory for the excesses of this regime and the way it presents itself to the public.
First, quick review of the key details:
Najafi, 67, an MIT-educated former mayor of Tehran, married Ostad, 35, his second wife, in 2017. He was and is still married to his first wife, the mother of his children.
Polygamy is legal for men in Iran, who can have up to four wives at a time. But even though the practice is tolerated by the religious establishment, many Iranians (especially in the cities) consider it to be intolerable. It’s a maneuver that lecherous older men — especially if they have been caught cheating — make if they want to feign piety. And everyone knows it.
Even so, within the halls of power it’s standard procedure, and it never got in the way of Najafi’s political career. In fact, it was the public revelation of his ongoing extramarital relationship with Ostad that led the two to wed.
By Najafi’s account, he didn’t want to stay in the marriage to Ostad and proposed a divorce, a legal act that men in Iran can demand with ease. Najafi claims that his wife refused, and they continued the marriage unhappily.
But their fights were becoming more frequent and heated. On Tuesday, it all came to a head.
Najafi went to Ostad’s apartment (he lives with his first wife) with a loaded gun. In what he claims was an animated attempt to scare her, he waved the gun at her while saying that he could put an end to all the arguing right then and there.
Next, according to Najafi, “she lunged and me and, well, the gun was ready.”
If the story were to end there, it would be a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of misogyny-fueled domestic violence, polygamy and gun ownership.
What makes the story even more shocking, though, is that we know all these details of the crime because the murderer admitted to them on live television, to a seemingly sympathetic audience of police detectives (who served him tea) and a state media host who gently asked if it might not have been wiser to file a complaint against his untamable wife.
“That would definitely have been better, but the truth is that over the last year I’ve tried different ways of dealing with our issues,” Najafi told the reporter. None of them worked to his satisfaction, apparently, and that “resulted in making me this mistake, and her life ending.”
Not exactly words of sorrow and contrition.
At one point, the television presenter holds the alleged murder weapon — without gloves — and empties the magazine, counting out eight cartridges. “There were thirteen bullets in it,” he says. “Five were fired. Two hit the victim, and three hit the wall.”
It’s clear that there will be no need for a crime-scene investigation. The esteemed suspect’s word is more than enough.
Ordinary Iranians have taken to social media to express their horror over the unfolding drama, but in the twisted life of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, it was just another day.
Forced confessions on IRIB are common, but Najafi’s is a departure from the norm. Nothing about it seemed coerced; if anything, it looked orchestrated — from the bows of deference he was shown by the police officers to the tea they served him. All of this is familiar to Iranians, who know from generations of experience that power means privilege. Even when you admit to murder.
It’s not that Iran’s ruling class is unrepentant — it’s also shockingly oblivious to its own excesses, as encapsulated both by this murder and the state broadcaster’s coverage of it. The depravity that the regime condones only highlights the growing divide between it and the country’s shocked society.
The misogyny and the state-sanctioned polygamy are bad enough. The brazen disregard for a female human life is appalling. But on top of all that, there’s the ingrained hypocrisy of a regime that has executed countless citizens without proper trial yet consistently lets its officials off the hook without even trying to hide it.
With this twisted version of reality TV, Iran’s regime has just demonstrated its shamelessness and depravity, offering a reminder of just how rotten it is.
He was looking for a woman with particular attributes, hopefully a widow of a man killed in the struggle against Israel, without children, between 25 and 30, from southern Gaza. Her requirement was no less important: She was looking for a married man.
.. She is beautiful and a widow of a martyr at the same time,” Mr. Abu Mustafa said, using the word preferred by Palestinians for a killed fighter, often a terrorist to Israelis. She is the second of his two wives.
“When I get wealthy, I will marry the third wife.”
.. Some 1,400 men have been killed in the three wars with Israel since 2008, leaving many widows who would like to remarry. Tradition, however, can make it difficult for them to wed single men.
.. said he did wish to give “dignity” to a widow.
.. more than half the marriage requests involved men seeking a second or third wife (though not yet a fourth).
.. “In most cases the husband’s family pressures the woman to marry the brother in law to control her life and seize any financial aid she receives.”
.. if the widow’s husband is affiliated with a political party, it might intervene and pressure the woman to marry a man from the same group, and she will often agree because she is struggling financially and the group will pay her a salary.
.. “This matchmaking service is positive because it encourages these women to choose the potential husband without fear and pressure in this religious and patriarchal society,” Ms. Owda said.
.. Lina Zein, 25, a single woman from Gaza City, explaining that Wesal felt too transactional in its approach to arranging weddings. “It limits my ambitions in marriage to someone’s income.” .
.. “Polygamy has hit high rates in Gaza over the few past years, seemingly due to an increase in people’s religious inclination, especially after Hamas took power in 2007,”
.. Hamas itself has been trying to encourage marriage by paying the equivalent of $1,500 to any male who memorizes the Quran
.. “We also fight old traditions that say divorced women should not get married.”
.. while Mr. Sheikha is in favor of more options for women in the selection of a spouse, he is not a strong supporter of the choice to remain single. In addition to helping widows and the divorced find husbands, he said he hoped the site would also address “an increase in the number of spinsters in their 20s and 30s. The Arabic proverb says living in the shadow of a man is better than living in the shadow of a wall, which means that having a husband is better than staying unmarried.”
Many states still followed the common law Doctrine of Coverture, which declared a woman civilly dead once she married. It’s not just…
GROSS: So she had no legal rights over her money, her property. She had no ownership over them.
ULRICH: Her money, her – her money, her property – she couldn’t sue or take a case to court except under a father or a husband – so dependency. The right to divorce – although divorce laws were greatly liberalized in the 19th century in most parts of the country, it was definitely – you had to prove either adultery – it took a while for physical abuse to be grounds for divorce.
.. Utah had no fault divorce from the beginning. It was very, very open and pretty common. And particularly, I think that made plural marriage workable. If you didn’t like it, you could leave.
.. It’s a very different world than we imagine. And so instead of comparing plural marriage in the 19th century to our notions of women’s rights today, we need to compare plural marriage, monogamy and then other institutions that really distressed people in the 19th century, like prostitution for example, different kinds of bigamous relationships.
So Mormons would argue, many American men have multiple sexual partners. They’re just not responsible. They don’t acknowledge them. They don’t give them dignity. They don’t legitimate their children. So polygamy is a solution to the horrendous licentiousness of other Americans.
.. So one of the things you’re famous for is a phrase that you originated in – I think it was like an academic paper in the 1970s – and the phrase has since shown up on like T-shirts and bumper stickers. I know you’re asked about this all the time, but the phrase is well-behaved women seldom make history.
Now, knowing your work, knowing that you write about, quote, “ordinary women” who kept journals, and you’re trying to understand what the lives of, like, ordinary women were in their time, I interpret that quote as meaning if you’re just looking at history, you won’t understand the lives of ordinary women because ordinary women seldom make history. But I suspect that that has been – that quote has been interpreted as ordinary women seldom make history so women don’t be ordinary, do something special so you can make history. Don’t be ordinary.
.. Yes. It’s been turned upside-down. On the other hand, you know, I was an ordinary girl from Idaho who got involved in the feminist movement and I’ve been on a collective bargaining team, and my former university, you know – I’ve done a lot of not very well-behaved things. And so I guess I embrace both sides. I embrace the contradiction of that crazy accidental slogan.