One day in 1995, I was walking down the street and a man began to scream at me that I was a whore and a disgrace and that he was going to kill me for shaming and dishonouring our community. Unfortunately, this was not just some crazy guy, he was saying what many men thought and felt. Even more unfortunately, the escalation of threats forced me at the age of eighteen, out of my own home and out of my own country, so that I could be safe.
Even though my own parents protected me, as a child, I saw a woman in my community beaten almost to death by her family, another woman with her lungs punctured, I watched girls I loved forced into marriages they didn’t want–rape and hurt and silencing was a normal if uncommon part of my world. I wondered from a very early age why some people were treated differently, why things seemed unfair, especially for women. Honour Based Violence (HBV) is something that has touched my life through friends and family who have been subjected to violence and repression in the name of honour, as well as my own experiences. As a result, I want to do something about it.
Almost three years ago, I set out on a mission to create a film project documenting the extent of ‘honour’ killings in Europe, and to understand the extent of the problem internationally. After exhaustively searching the web for information on the subject, my need for research and data was unfulfilled. I began interviewing experts in the field, ranging from policy makers to NGOs, activists, police officers and legal professionals and realised that they also shared my frustration at the lack of accessible and comprehensive information about HBV.
During these interviews, I quickly became aware that Honour Based Violence is little understood in the West–with alarming consequences. We know that HBV is far more widespread than current figures indicate because it is under-reported, under-researched and under-documented; and therefore, easily misunderstood and mis-recognised.
Out of these needs, the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network (HBVA) was born. I humbly hope HBVA can serve as a helpful tool by making much of the excellent research material and articles that already exist, more easily accessible to everyone who has a need for them. In collaboration with our partners and experts, HBVA will also produce up-to-date research and data about all aspects of ‘honour’-based violence.
Centuries-old cultures, customs, social structures and mentalities take time and consistent effort to change, but we can make a real and immediate impact and deaths can be prevented. By implementing adequate training, providing background and context and research to people in a position to identify and help those who are at risk of Honour Based Violence, we can mitigate some of the damage, we can save one girl at a time. HBVA Network is a place where an alien concept can be explained, where warning signs can be learned and individuals and institutions can know what to do—and what not to do—so that we are not helpless in the face of impending murder and abuse.
I hope it can save you many hours of frustrating research. I hope it can save the lives of girls and women and the men who are victimized, too.
I am grateful for the passion and hard work of the incredible people committed to reducing these crimes. You will find many of them in our expert network. I would like to personally thank these amazing individuals and groups who work tirelessly to make a difference, especially the women working with individuals in need. They do it with limited resources, and often at the expense of their own safety.
Honour Based Violence Awareness Network serves these core functions:
–Deeyah (January, 2012)
To visit our remembrance initiative please visit
MEMINI– Remembering victims of honour killings worldwide: