New Film Debut Shows Secret Tragedy Of ‘honour’ Based Violence
The Honour Based Violence Awareness Network says today the UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund statistics estimates that 5,000 “so-called honour” killings are committed around the world every year.
Across the Western world there are rising levels of ‘honour’ violence. This form of crime is distinguished from others by its collaborative and highly ritualized nature, typically involving members of the victim’s immediate family.
This kind of per-meditated violence inside a family may be unbelievable. But it continues to happen worldwide. and many of its victims belong to migrant families
A ground-breaking new film documentary, “Banaz: A Love Story,” produced by the prize winning human rights activist and critically acclaimed woman singer and composer from Norway known throughout the music world as Deeyah, includes a searing ‘inside look’ into the life of Banaz Mahmod who tried over and over again to get protection from the London police before her untimely death in an ‘honour’ killing. It includes never-before seen footage recorded by Banaz’s boyfriend Rahmat. The film also includes interviews with Banaz’s sister Bekhal, and an up-close look at the Scotland Yard detective, Chief Inspector Caroline Goode, who worked tirelessly to track down the killers of Banaz.
Today both Rahmat and Bekhal are hiding separately in undisclosed locations in Europe to escape the fate that haunted Banaz.
“Honour Killing is not really a crime of passion. It’s pre-meditated,” said Deeyah to London based human rights activist, publisher and founder Chris Crowstaff of The Safe World International Foundation in a 2006 interview as Deeyah was in the early stages of the film’s production. “And it’s not the crime of just one person. It’s typically planned by a number of people, and not something that happens in the heat of a moment of passion or insanity between one person unleashing violence against another,” continued Deeyah.
In 2006 South London, twenty-year old Banaz Mahmod’s uncles and cousins burst into her house early in the morning. They woke her by beating her, a beating which continued for several hours, with the consent and approval of her immediate family. Then they murdered her in a slow and gruesome manner adding rape to the crime. After the murder of Banaz, her parents removed all pictures of her from the family house. Years later they refused to cooperate with police investigations.
Although many people don’t know this, murder is only one of many other kinds of ‘honour’ crime. Other types include forced abortion, female genital mutilation known as ‘hymen repair’ by those families who inflice this on their daughters, abduction or forced marriage, forced prostitution, and lastly ‘honour suicide.’ According to Diana Nammi, the director of the IKWRO – Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in London, an estimated 3,000 ‘honour’ crimes were committed in the U.K. during 2010. Activists and law enforcement agents agree that these statistics are gross under-estimates. Commonly ‘honour’ crimes are committed with the active participation of family and neighbors. Consequently such crimes typically go unreported.
Including raw footage from the London police video files, “Banaz: A Love Story” contains recorded statements and urgent pleas for help by Banaz that were made to the police. Contacting the police six times before she was murdered the police made no efforts to investigate Banaz’s case. No police help was offered even after Banaz was hospitalized after escaping from one ‘honour’ crime murder attempt that was made before her death.
In the footage from one of her visits to the police Banaz sits calmly in a red sweater, a glimpse of a delicate gold necklace peeks out from beneath her collar. She carefully describes abuse, a forced marriage, stalkers and threats against her life made by her own relatives. “When he raped me it was like I was his shoe that he could wear whenever he wanted to. I didn’t know if this was normal in my culture, or here. I was 17.” Banaz said describing the husband her family had chosen for her. When she finally left her husband, she said her family was furious with her.
“Now I have given my statement. What can you do for me?” she asked the police officer in attendance once the details of her story had been made ‘on-the-record.’ A chilling silence follows her question as the officer recording Banaz’s statements offers her no refuge.
For a moment, Banaz’s head hangs heavy. Before her statement to the police had been made, her sister Bekhal had also already been threatened by her family. Because of this Bekhal was now living in hiding, “If she was still alive,” said Banaz to the police. Her sister was estranged not only from her parents but from the entire community. Sitting at the police station in London, Banaz silently weighs her options and decides to go back home.
Shockingly this was the first of many statements Banaz would make to the police before her death.
Banaz Mamod’s nickname was a Kurdish word that means tenderness, the softness of a new born lamb, that matches the soft voice of Banaz as she tells her story of abuse and fear at the hands of her tormentors. Exclusive first-time interviews in the film with Banaz’s sister Bekhal, who wears a black veil covering her face to protect her from retaliations, introduces us to Banaz through childhood memories.
Bekhal also shares her own memories as her family attempted to commit ‘honour’ crimes against her: forcibly circumcising her with a knife when she was a teenager, then later beating her and trying to kill her. She also describes how today she continues to live with what she calls an “omnipresent fear.” Her dark eyes swell with tears; “My only regret is I should have taken Banaz with me [when I fled],” she says.
In the making of Deeyah’s film, no friends or other family members would speak on camera about Banaz – even her boyfriend Rahmat, who contributed short videos of Banaz in the hospital and text message conversations to the film production. No one who knew Banaz when she was alive would speak about her to the production crew.
All of the film’s other interviews are from activists and law enforcement. All learned about the fate of Banaz after her death. The documentary features conversations with Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode, who won the Queen’s Award in 2011 for her dedicated efforts in tracing and jailing Banaz’s murderers.
The publicity that surrounded this case, years after Banaz’s murder, brought harsh criticism against the British police, and a new awareness about ‘honour’ crime in Europe. But the Metropolitan Police in London still does not have a specialized unit dedicated to investigating ‘honour’ crime. Nothing was ever done to investigate or punish the police officers who failed to protect Banaz.