According to the United Nations and The International Campaign Against Honour Killing at least 5,000 women and girls worldwide are murdered each year to preserve ‘family honour'. Many of these women are killed for making personal choices that don't match the limits placed on them by their families and local society.
Personal choices come in conflict with a family's ‘honour' when a young woman begins to ask – Who do I want my life-partner to be?; What if I don't want an arranged marriage?; How do I want to dress in public?; What music do I want listen to?; How can I own my own business?; Can I attend a university of my choice?; When will I be able to sing in public, or go dancing?; Can I ask for a divorce if my husband beats me?; Can I attend school?
Judged ruthlessly for exercising such basic freedoms like making personal career or educational choices, deciding styles of dress, choosing one's friends and even the number of children one wishes to have, women who have become victims of ‘honour' violence are trapped in a never-ending cycle of self-denial.
Providing a digital memorial to the victims of ‘honour' crimes worldwide is a new website called Memini, which means ‘remembrance' in Latin. It outlines the lives of 25 women who have been murdered because of ‘honour' violence. Created by award-winning Norwegian filmmaker, composer and celebrity pop singer Deepika Thathaal, known as Deeyah by her fans, each face on Memini shows a haunting desire to live. Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi descent, Deeyah knows that dangers exist for women who step outside their society's ‘cultural norm'. “Honour Killings represent the ultimate in control and oppression of women,” she says. Family members – or friends of the family – are often the ones who carry out the killing in these murders. ‘Honour' crimes happen worldwide, but they are more common in countries such as Syria, Egypt, Morocco, India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. Women belonging to immigrant communities in developed nations like the United States, Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway and the UK, are also very vulnerable. “The perpetrators of these ‘honour' motivated crimes want all signs of the lives of these young women to be completely wiped out – it's almost as if these young women had never existed in the first place,” explains Deeyah.
Turkish-born Kurdish immigrant to Sweden, Fadime Sahindal, is one such victim. Talking about the first time she reported to the police personal threats against her mounted by family members during a formal meeting of Sweden's parliament on November 21, 2001, she had said, “I reported the incident to the police, but they didn't take me seriously.”
Less than two months after her speech in Parliament, Sahindal was shot dead by her father, an illiterate Kurd farmer who had moved to Sweden in 1980. She had dared to travel against her father's wishes to visit the grave of an ‘unapproved' Swedish boyfriend who had been killed in a car accident.