Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:49 pm (KSA) 16:49 pm (GMT)

Lady director exposes Palestinian honor killings

Palestinian director Buthina Canaan Khoury (File)
Palestinian director Buthina Canaan Khoury (File)

A new documentary called Maria's Grotto which premiered in Ramallah on Friday explores the issue of honor killings through the heart-breaking stories of four Palestinian women.

Directed by Palestinian director Buthina Canaan Khoury, the 53-minute documentary is the result of two years of groundwork and filming, Reuters News Agency reported.

The film begins in Maria's Grotto, the film's namesake, which is said to be the burial place of a girl called Maria, who lived in a village 20 kilometers east of Ramallah in the 1930s.

According to a village elder, Maria's family suspected that she had an illicit affair. After they killed her in the Grotto, they examined her and found out she was virgin. "Maria was innocent," the old lady recounts.

The second story is the more recent tragedy of Hayam, a 35-year-old woman who got pregnant with a Christian man from a neighboring village. When her family discovered her pregnancy in her eighth month, they forced her to take poison.

Khoury tried in vain to get the girl's family to speak on film. But local police officers said they had to detain the Hayam's boyfriend to protect him after Hayam's family reportedly burnt down houses and a factory belonging to the man's family.

Among the people interviewed, is an old woman who supports honor killing: "Disgrace is not a simple thing. Honor is the next precious value after land," she said.

The movie also tells the story of a girl who miraculously survived after being stabbed seven times by her brother: "He didn't ask me anything…he just tried to kill me," she recalled.

The brother, whose face was blurred on screen like his sister's, said he regretted his crime, but explained the social pressure he faced: "I was devastated by people's words and looks. Everybody was asking, 'Why don't you kill her? Aren't you a man?' I wished she could have escaped while I was trying to kill her."

Although the brother turned himself in, three quarters of the police officers lauded his act as "honorable," the film shows.

The Palestinian Minister of Women's Affairs Khouloud Daibes said in a press conference that honor killings are on the rise in Palestinian territories.

Human rights groups said 20 to 50 women have been killed for honor reasons since the beginning of 2007 and that culprits usually get away with light sentences.

Minister of Justice Ali Al-Khashan said that a new law is being drafted and will be presented to President Mahmoud Abbas to impose strict penalties on perpetrators of this type of crime.

Khoury is an independent Palestinian filmmaker who focuses on women's social and political problems. She has a Bachelors degree in Filmmaking and Photography from the Massachusetts College of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

Her first documentary, Women in Struggle (2004), was awarded four prizes and translated to six languages.

(Translation from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

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