Cultural fears hinder war on ‘honour’ killing, says film-maker

Political correctness is hampering the fight against so-called honour-based violence in Britain, a campaigner has warned.

Deeyah Khan, whose documentary about the victim of an “honour” killing from London recently won an Emmy, called for the police to set up a specialist unit to deal with the problem.

The UK-based film-maker, whose parents are from Pakistan and Afghanistan, said there were police departments dealing with witchcraft and gang violence, but none dedicated to investigating “honour” violence.

Speaking at an international conference on women’s rights in London, Ms Khan compared it with organised crime. She said it needed specialist policing because there were multiple perpetrators.

“The victims have to be protected in a certain way. They are at risk from their entire communities,” she said. “There are aunties and cab drivers and even people in dole offices looking out for the women. There are bounty hunters and hitmen who don’t even take money to kill them, they do it because they see it as a necessity.”

Ms Khan’s film Banaz: A Love Story documented the case of Banaz Mahmod, an Iraqi Kurd from Mitcham who was murdered by her family in 2006, and her body buried in a suitcase in Handsworth, Birmingham. The film won an Emmy for best international documentary in October. She said: “It is awful that these crimes happen anywhere, but the fact it is happening here in the UK is unacceptable.” She added that people were afraid to get involved because of political correctness and a sense that “we don’t want to step on the toes of communities”.

She said: “But if the outcome is our young people die or suffer,  what good is that kind of politeness? Our silence allows this to happen.”

The conference heard that there were 12 “honour” killings each year in Britain and thousands of cases of violence. Ms Khan said awareness among police was patchy, and called for officers, doctors and teachers to be trained to spot the signs that women and girls were at risk. She said: “A lot of women find themselves constantly under surveillance. It is extremely difficult for most to come forward and report violence.” She added she could no longer “stand by in silence as women like Banaz continue to be erased without any support or understanding”.

Banaz’s father Mahmod Mahmod and uncle Ari Mahmod were convicted of her murder in June 2007 and jailed for life. Two other men involved fled to Iraq, but were extradited back and jailed for life in 2010. A Met spokesman said that each of the 32 boroughs covered by the force had a Community Safety Unit and that there were more than 560 trained officers overall who investigate hate and domestic violence crimes, including honour-based violence.

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