Crimes of Honour

Directed by Shelley Saywell

44 minutes / Color
Release: 1999
Copyright: 1998

Across the Islamic world, hundreds of women are shot, stabbed, strangled or burned to death each year by their male relatives, because they are thought to have dishonored their families by engaging in unacceptable relationships. Filmed in Jordan and on the West Bank, CRIMES OF HONOUR documents the terrible reality of femicide—the killing of sisters or daughters suspected of losing their virginity, for having refused an arranged marriage or having left a husband. Even if a woman is raped, abused, or is the victim of gossip, she may pay the terrible price.

Rania Arafat fled from her home after falling in love with a man her family did not approve of. Afraid of violence, she lived in hiding. Eventually, after promises of forgiveness and a new beginning, believing in the words of her mother and father, Rania agreed to return. But instead of a joyous reunion, Rania was murdered, shot in the head by another brother while on the way home. She was still a virgin.

Femicide, although having no basis in Islamic teachings, is on the rise in some countries. But some women are fighting for change. CRIMES OF HONOUR profiles three women committed to human rights, who attempt to provide protection and assistance to those in danger. Rana Husseini, an award-winning reporter for the Jordan Times, investigates the crimes, documents and reports on the stories of terrified young women. Jordanian Human Rights Lawyer Asma Khader fights in the courts to protect threatened women, and for longer prison sentences for those guilty of femicide.

This wrenching new film captures the horrific tragedy of this practice, personal reactions to it, and examines the wider societal response. 

"Serious and memorable... A well researched documentary. The stories recorded are chilling."- Feminist Collections Quarterly

"Shelley Saywell takes her piercing vision to Jordan and Israel's West Bank for a harrowing perspective on how many women have no rights and no protection."- Toronto Star

"A powerful exploration of crimes in the name of Islamic family honor that reveals the destructive cultural undertow of a segment of the lower socio-economic classes in Jordan and the West Bank…. This stirring cultural snapshot on the eve of change is highly recommended as it will promote discussion in a variety of areas associated with Women's Studies and Cultural Studies, as well as Anthropology and Sociology."- Educational Media Reviews Online

"A scorcher… a heartscalding expose of blithe murder.">b>- Critical List

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Select Accolades

  • 2000 National Women's Studies Association Film Festival
  • 1999 Middle Eastern Studies Association FilmFest


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