Writer Seamus Scanlon will be contributing occasional film reviews for this blog. This is his first review. Thanks, Seamus. Ed
Quest for Honor. NR, 67 Minutes, In English and Kurdish with English subtitles, USA/Iraq, 2009, Mary Ann Smothers Bruni (Dir).
This sobering documentary, which has just had a release in New York and Los Angeles after being screened at the Sundance Film Festival highlights the twisted logic and bleak cruelty behind honor killings – a pernicious misnomer if there ever was. These murders estimated at over 5,000 per year by the UN is likely to be higher since reporting, detection and follow up judicial intervention is unlikely since they are community crimes where the concept is tolerated by the community and because these murders are family affairs which are difficult to unravel even if the police and judicial system were active in combating this murders.
The murders are usually committed by the woman’s own family after a family council, where the victim may be present. The father or male guardian (brother, cousin, uncle, grandfather) of the woman or girl child is the murderer. The murders are done to atone for the woman/girl child besmirching so called family honor. The murders restore family honor.
These transgressions can be minor like, talking to boys, being too Western, refusing to abide by arranged marriages (often to male relatives decades older), keeping company with men, keeping company with me from different social classes, sexual relations with men.
There is fairly anemic follow up the authorities in general in Muslin countries but justice is more vigorous in Europe and North America but can be easy to conceal since the family of origin will not be requesting police assistance to locate a missing daughter, wife, mother, aunt, cousin. Killings include live burial, drowning and may include torture and rape.
Most honor killings are carried out in Muslim countries or by Muslim communities in the West. It is a cultural rather than a religious phenomenon that has existed for millennia so it is difficult to counteract. It is part of the larger arid landscape of violence against women and girl children making it perilous to traverse in safety. (See recent study titled Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings by Phyllis Chesler in the Middle East Quarterly; Spring2010, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p3-11.)
The film crew of this documentary were in the Kurdish area of Iraq on another assignment when a phone call came in about the discovery of a woman’s body which had the hallmarks of an honor killing. The director abandoned the original project to follow the story as it developed. Interviews with family members of the murdered woman including the mother-in-law were disquieting since she condoned the killing although denying involvement. The family of origin usually commit the murders but often after the instigation from the family into which the woman is married. The children of the woman were interviewed and said (especially the son) that she deserved to die thus continuing the cycle for another generation. It was obvious they had been coached because her young daughter said she missed her hugs after just answering that her mother was a ‘bad’ woman.
The film also follows the story of a woman whose husband, cousin and brother tried to kill her. The lethargy of the police and the prosecution did little to convince that she would get justice or even live in safety but the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was not only open, but was extremely helpful to the film makers. The KRG itself is fighting the problem of “honor killing” with laws by creating better safe houses and establishing a special Agency to Prevent Violence Against Women
Official Website: http://questforhonor.com/home/
PHOTO OF HONOR KILLING VICTIM IN MOVIE
PHOTO OF HONOR KILLING VICTIM IN MOVIE
[URL FOR YOUTUBE VIDEO QUEST FOR HONOR]
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[URL FOR HONOR KILLING VIDEO FROM CNN]
[CORRSPONDING HTML EMBED CODE FOR HONOR KILLING VIDEO FROM CNN]