The Iranian government has been trying to register the marrying off of women and girls to end tribal disputes as a “valuable cultural heritage” for almost 20 years, despite intense pushback by the United Nations and human rights groups throughout the world.
Khoon bas is a cease blood tradition to resolve disputes among nomadic tribes, whereby in the case of murder, desecration, assault, or the vague “deviation and deviance”, the offending tribe will offer a sacrificial woman to be married by a member of the wronged tribe.
There have been moves to register the tradition since 2002, Iran’s cultural heritage organization discussed it in 2010, and the provincial authorities of several Iranian provinces tried to register it until 2012. This was, for obvious reasons, opposed by UNESCO and the cultural heritage organization was advised not to accept it. But in 2019, the Justice Department of Shush, Khuzestan, requested to register it again, with its head Sadeq Jafari Chegeni posting that he’d made a request as recently as March 2020.
“On the Cease blood tradition (Khoon bas), the sinner is not punished; in many villages, women are subject to rootless traditions. The Khoon bas tradition has been related to pre-Islamic times. Other tribes and nomads now follow the general rules,” said Puneh Pielram, former head of the Ahvaz Governor’s Women’s Commission.
Pielram interviewed over 60 women and describe the practice as cruel and unjust, citing that in some cases multiple women were married off at the same time. While Atefeh Bervayeh described Khoon bas as cruel, citing it as one of the highest forms of violence against women.
In September, it was reported that an 11-year-old girl was to be married to a 35-year-old married man to end a family dispute that she had no role in after her brother fell in love with a girl who’s family hated him. This is the only way they would not kill her brother.
This is a clear violation of women’s and children’s rights, with many of these girls below the legal marriage age of 13, which is shockingly low in itself.
“The government and the law have never directly intervened in opposition to this misogynist tradition and have tolerated this phenomenon… In Khoon bas, peace and compromise are based on sacrificing a third party therefore, it bears no sign of justice rather, it makes an innocent third party a victim forever. This act has no rational basis and is not prescribed by the Shari’a. In Khoon bas, the principle of personal punishment is ignored,” said lawyer and children’s rights activist Manijeh Mohammadi.
The girls married off here will face a lifetime of punishments for crimes they did not commit.