URGENT ACTION: Iran: A former child bride faces execution by hanging

Women Living Under Laws (WLUML) condemn the sentencing of Farzaneh Moradi, a 26-year-old woman accused of murdering her husband, to die by hanging.

Farzaneh Moradi was a child bride at the age of 15 when she was forced to marry a paternal relative and became a mother at 16.  At 19, she fell in love with a man named Saeed and a year later was arrested and chargedfor the murder of her husband. Farzaneh claims she was tricked by Saeed to take responsibility for the murder based on the justification that she shared a child with her husband and therefore her parents-in-law would forgive her and in that manner, she and Saeed would be free to marry.

Farzaneh claims that Saeed was the one who suggested, planned, and committed the crime. Farzaneh recounts that she initially resisted but finally one night he entered their home stabbed her husband while he was asleep. He then cleaned the bloody knife and placed it in her hands, according to this account. At the time of the arrest she took responsibility for the murder but later on the authorities did not accept her claims of innocence. The family of her late husband will only agree to spare her from execution if Saeed is arrested and tried.  This is a task which may prove impossible given the fact that Saeed is free and there is less than a month to prove Farzaneh’s innocence. Until then, Farzaneh continues to face death by hanging. Her mother pleas for Farzaneh’s life pointing out that her 10-year-old daughter needs her.

The execution was scheduled to take place on Sunday 1st February, but was postponed for a month by the Attorney General Reza Habibi in Isfahan where the case is being tried. The judiciary is said to be making every effort to secure the agreement of the victim’s family to suspend the sentence of Farzaneh by proving it was her lover who committed the murder and not her.

Forced child marriage in Iran [1].

In a report “Stolen Lives, Empty Classrooms: An Overview on Girl Marriages in the Islamic Republic of Iran” published on the occasion of the 2013 International Day of the Girl Child last October, WLUML’s partner Justice for Iran (JFI) wrote that in 2012 alone, at least 1,500 girls below the age of 10 were forced to marry. During the same year, nearly 30,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 faced the same fate. Experts on the subject inside Iran believe that the Islamic Republic officials want to avoid having any attention drawn to marriages involving girls younger than 13;official statistics are not categorized according to age and marriages involving girls below the age of 13 are contingent on a judge’s permission.

In its new report “Forced Girl Marriages: The Death of One’s Reality“ published last week, JFI examined the effects of this practice on the lives of women and girl children in communities where this is happening. These findings were based on narratives by a diverse range of women who took part in its call through Facebook to share their own childhood experiences; what might have occurred had they been forced to marry; and what must be done to stop the practice of forcing girl children into the sexual slavery of older men. The number of women who came forward was overwhelming. Many confirmed the wide practice of girl children being forced into marriage. Along with their childhood photos, more than 150 women shared intimate details of how forced child marriage had or could have devastated their lives [2].

The wide ranging narratives and accounts point to the fact that the practice of forced child marriage is happening across the country and socio-economic classes. They countered previous assumption that forced marriages are exclusive to the disadvantaged and the conservative sectors of the population or those who reside in remote and marginal villages and towns. Their personal accounts put a face to the conditions and the causes that lead to such marriages. They also include analysis and consideration for the negative impact of forced marriages on the body and mind of girl children. Furthermore, academic studies indicate women charged with the murder of their spouses are often forced to marry as children between 13 and 18 years of age. Many of those in Iran are unable to flee domestic violence due to cultural and legal barriers to divorce [3].

Our calls to the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran

  • Thoroughly review the case of Farzaneh Moradi and, based on humanitarian considerations, withdraw the punishment of execution by hanging.
  • For the Islamic Republic judicial and legislative authorities to immediately revise national codes and laws in accordance with international commitments regarding the age of maturity in order to make illegal marriage of girls below the age of 18 under all conditions [4].
  • For the judicial authorities to introduce national codes and laws to prohibit forced marriage.  
  • Any law pertaining to forced child marriage must prohibit any marriage with an adopted child.
  • To hold accountable any private actors - including guardians - as well as the judges responsible for the approval of forced child marriage cases. 
  • To provide reparation and comprehensive support for victims of girl marriages.
  • To sign the UN Convention on Consent to Marriage,  Minimum Age For Marriage and Registration of Marriage with no reservation and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

We also call upon the UN Human Rights Council, the UN treaty bodies and special procedures and the UN’s relevant programs with presence in Iran to raise the seriousness of the problem.  We also call on Global South countries and members of the Non-Aligned Movement to encourage the Islamic Republic to fully cooperate with United Nations mechanisms and procedures, including the Universal Periodic Review recommendations.

What can you do?

Please share this statement widely especially to your contacts in the UN, the Iranian embassies in your countries and your governments (their missions in the UN HUman Rights Council), the media and ngos. We only have one month to save Farzaneh from being hanged. Our previous experience of campaigning against stoning of women in Iran shows that international public pressure could work on the Iranian authorities. 


[1] “Forced child marriage” is the preferred term by Justice for Iran to emphasize that all girl marriages are ‘forced’ and to counter Iran’s attempt to use ‘girl marriage’ replacing the term “early marriage” in order to legitimse their position that girls marrying after the age of nine could be considered as ‘adult”. 

[2] A staggering 56,512 joined the event only in the first two days. In addition, 5,478 have announced their support for JFI’s call. Many others shared echoed the same messages on their Facebook pages or linked to JFI’s “No to Girl  Marriages” page in order to spread its call.

[4] The Islamic Republic is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 10 of the ICESCR explicitly states: “Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses” and  the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which sets the legal age at 18. A 2002 report of the CRC treaty body indicates that, in accordance with Article 77 of the Islamic Republic Constitution and Article 9 of its Civil Code, the Convention is binding and has the full force of law