Award-Winning Docu Filmmaker Launches Summit To Tackle Honor Killings


Honor killings are still a relatively new type of crime in the western world, but they have been going on for many many years right under our noses. An honor killing is when a family member or members decide to kill usually a female family member in order to prevent shame on their family name.

Honour-based violence and forced marriage are forms of gender violence, which are often associated with South Asian or Middle Eastern cultures. While they are prevalent within these groups, they may also be found in many other ethnic and identity groups.

In a typical situation, a girl is from a strict religious household and finds love with someone outside the family and cultural boundaries. Most close-knit families in certain cultural and religious traditions see this as a stain their reputation and feel it is far easier to kill the girl than to accept something different than what they believe. It is a horrific epidemic that happens all over the world.

According to a non-profit called the Honor-based violence awareness network, 5000 honor killings happen every year globally. Twelve a year a reported in the UK where it has been a growing problem due to the high population of south Asian and middle eastern people, and 1000 a year are reported to take place in India and Pakistan.

The media has been catching on to these crimes the more they have been reported especially in western countries. ‘The Price Of Honor‘ documentary explores the crime of two teenage sisters based in Canada who were reportedly killed by their own father for dating boys outside of their own ethnicity.

Another documentary called ‘Honor Diaries’ on Netflix which we constantly recommend all our readers watch, features a roundtable of women from a variety of different countries with one thing in common: they come from cultures where honor killings and forced marriages (which often go hand in hand) are a normal part of society. Each of the women talk about their own situations and why governments and institutions such as schools and colleges need to be more educated to know the signs in order to prevent a possible honor crime.

One of the women in the docu is Jasvinder Singhera who started an organization in the UK which campaigns to raise awareness. They have teamed up with Cosmo magazine in the UK to lobby the government to create new laws which will adequately prosecute these crimes and give victims the ability to speak up to authorities.


Elsewhere in the UK, filmmaker Deeyah Khan from Norway released a documentary in 2012 called ‘Banaz: A Love Story’ based around a young British-Asian girl called Banaz Mahmod who was reportedly killed in 2006 by her own family, with the agreement and help of a large section of the Kurdish community, because she tried to choose a life for herself. The film is extraordinary and one of a kind because it features a lot of police interview footage of Banaz herself. Before she “disappeared” she reported fearing for her life and even accurately (and tragically) predicted her own death.

Deeyah won an Emmy Award that year for ‘Best International Current Affairs Film’ but what is more important than an accolade is the increased awareness that will come about from this film. Deeyah wasn’t content to just finish the film and move onto another project, however.

Under the umbrella of her production company Fuuse which she founded in 2010, she decided to create a summit dedicated to creating solutions for gender-based violence in the Western world.

World Woman took place in Oslo, Norway in January and consisted of artists, filmmakers, activists, policymakers and changemakers who want to collectively use their voice and resources to stop gender violence.

“The participants are activists and artists who have found the compassion and strength to speak about the needs and reality of people who are suffering. Sometimes risking their own lives and livelihoods in the defence of individual freedom and equality, they give voice to the marginalised, the excluded, the silenced. This gathering is a gesture of solidarity with these remarkable women, and a tribute to their bravery and their achievements. It is an opportunity to hear their stories, to experience their artistic expression and to develop dialogue across cultures and disciplines in order to strengthen our own voices and protect theirs,” said the website description.

In an article for the Guardian, Deeyah talks about freedom of expression being an essential part of feminists and dissidents in the Muslim world.

“As a girl, I abandoned a promising singing career due to violent harassment by Islamists. Since then, over twenty years later as a film-maker and activist, I am a passionate advocate for the freedom of expression, even when this challenges ideas and images that are held to be sacrosanct,” she wrote.

She says the majority of the victims are from Muslim backgrounds and that women are victimized more than most. Deeyah also touched on the horrific shooting in Paris where artists from local magazine Charlie Hebdo were shot by Islamist extremists for printing caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, which sparked a wave of outcry over the people who are trying to silence freedom of expression.


“If a young girl innocently singing traditional Pashtun songs was considered a threat to Islamist values, and one worthy of physical attacks, then what about those brave women who directly challenge religious justifications for the oppression of women in the most challenging of environments, states which imprison, torture and execute dissidents, where militias and extremists act as vigilantes in the service of their warped ideas, and their intolerance of anything that may challenge them. These efforts to crush freedom of expression are a powerful testament to the importance of what dissidents have to say, and the weakness of their own position.”

Deeyah claims this summit, which we hope will be a continued event, is her “defiance of those who seek to silence women’s voices, the voices of women who are my own personal heroes, and my firm commitment to freedom of expression.”

“Our freedoms are shared freedoms: they are bound up in each other. The ability to confront oppression in the guise of religion is linked to our ability to worship as we choose: both are acts of expression. Violence, not speech, is the real act of provocation. Speech, not violence, is how we will bridge the divides between us.”

If the terrorists of this world continue their mission in trying to shut down freedoms that have been hard-won by men and women all over the world, then why shouldn’t everyday people continue to speak up! The World Woman summit is one example of how to collectively gather and find strength in numbers in the fight against violence and fear. We applaud what Deeyah Khan has created and join her in her fight.

Here she is talking to UN Women about the importance of solidarity:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.