It’s no secret that I believe passionately in the message of Honor Diaries (www.honordairies.com) and I know that even after a year the message is very relevant to women worldwide. But when it personally impacts someone’s life, then I know we are on the right track to have broken the bounds of silence. At almost every screening I’ve been to (and I’ve been to almost 75) there is always some young girl in the audience who comes to me later to say that she has seen honor based violence. Rarely though will anyone speak out publicly.
On March 14, 2015 Honor Diaries was screened at KDocs, the KPU Documentary Film Festival Spring Sponsored by Kwantlen Student Association (KSA).
After the screening there was a panel discussion and while I had read the names of the other panelists, I did not know who they were as I had never met them before. These were two young Afghan women from BC, alumni of KPU.
When the first young lady started speaking, I became totally alert. She said that Honor Diaries was factual and impacted her immensely because she had experienced much of the abuse mentioned in the film. She clarified that she came to the screening because of the important message it relayed, and this was the first time she felt empowered to tell her story in public. And what a heart rending story it is. (Later she told me that many years ago she and her mother had come to hear me speak on one of my speaking engagements in Vancouver).
Sadly since then her mother had been brutally murdered by her father in front of the children. At that time (she said) it was not considered an “honor killing” but in retrospect she realises that it was. Her mother was a wonderful educated woman who worked while her father was illiterate and his family mocked him for giving his wife too much freedom. So he stabbed her with a knife.
While we were absorbing this horrific story, she went to speak about the unspeakable things that happened to her after her mother was murdered. She was forced into a marriage that turned abusive; she was beaten and violated with no support and her siblings were also abused. When she decided to speak about her tragic life, her community ostracised her and she became a pariah. All this happened in Canada.
But she has decided that with the help of Honor Diaries she wants to tell her story so that other young girls don’t go through what she had to. She want to offer support and advise to others but this was the first time she spoke out and she is still afraid for her safety.
The other young woman was in a similar position. She came from a small village in Afghanistan which was taken over by Taliban and she saw and experienced unspeakable atrocities. Her best friend was cut in half and the body dragged in front of her eyes; she was raped by family members and forced to wear a burka till she says she felt she would choke and die. She escaped first to Pakistan, then to India and from there she got asylum in Canada. However this brave young girl got a grant and went back to Afghanistan to film the stories of the women and girls who are still there. She said that honor based violence is on the rise and it was very poignant when she said how thankful she was for foreign intervention in Afghanistan because she knows what would have happened to her and has happened to many women who are still there.
Both women came to me after the panel and said they had come there in the hope that they can become spokespersons for Honor Diaries because it so relevant to their lives.
When I hear these testimonies, I realise the global impact of Honor Diaries and I say to its detractors “you obviously have never spoken to a victim of honor based violence or have experienced anything close to what these women faced, otherwise you would never speak out against a movement to bring closure and healing into women’s lives; ask these two couragous young girls about their lives.”