Sophia's Peace Work

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Honor Killings

Last night I had the opportunity to meet an American film team that is doing a documentary film on so-called "Honor Killings" - the killing of women to protect the families honor. I was able to see some of their recent footage and it was powerful stuff.

They followed a local Kurdish women's rights group around as they followed the story of one such killing. A body of a young woman was found outside of Sulaimani killed by two gunshot, one at close range. The young woman is lying on her back with one arm thrown above her head. She is dressed in a modern way with jeans and heeled shoes. No one comes to claim her body and it take some time to identify her. These are the hallmarks of a typical honor killing.

As the story unfolds it turns out that the woman was an Iranian Kurdish refugee living in a town further north. Her family is poor and her father sold her into marriage to an Iraqi Kurd living with his parents near Sulaimani. She had three children from the marriage. Approximately six months before her husband died and there was trouble with the family. She was kicked out of the house of her husband's parents (though they kept her three children).

The head of the women's right group is followed as she interviews the police, the doctors, the city officials and the woman's in-laws, and even one of the children of the dead woman.

It is gripping to watch the mother-in-law try and defend what her family had done. They claim the dead woman was a bad and immoral person but they say they have no idea who would have killed her. But the worst is when they speak to the son. He's only seven or eight by the look of him and he's already been taught to hate his mother and be glad that she is dead. He openly says that he thinks his uncle killed her.

It used to be there Iraqi law supported the killing of women to restore honor but the law was changed to make it a crime. Though this is a step in the right direction, the practice continues on and enforcement of the law is weak. One city official stated, "It's a tribal society. Things are changing but you can't change things over night." Yet in the government is complicite in the issue. Often, I was told, when there are problems between two families, the authorities step in and attempt to solve it by suggesting that the families simply "trade women."

The filmmakers told me that they started the project a year ago (this was when the footage they showed me was taken) and since they have come back, they found that the authorities who insisted they were working on the problem had done nothing. Yes things don't change over night but they won't change any faster if we tolerate these problems and simply say, "these people are tribal and simply ignorant."


  • This is very interesting. Can we reprint it at I'd very much like to see this film as well when it is released, please can you give some more details?

    By Blogger Joanne, at June 17, 2008 11:11 PM  

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