Crimes of Honour

( Canada / 2001 )
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CRIMES OF HONOUR documents the terrible reality of femicide- the belief that a girl's body is the property of the family, and any suggestion of sexual impropriety must be cleansed with her blood. This absorbing, heart-wrenching film introduces us to some of the women in hiding from their families, as well as a brother who describes his reasons for killing the sister he loved. Also profiled are a handful of women who have committed themselves to the protection of young women in danger of losing their lives. This film explains that honor killings have no basis in Islamic teachings, yet are disturbingly on the rise.
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Formats: Digital Copy, DVD
Running Time: 44 min.
Theme: Crime, Human Rights, Middle Eastern Studies, Politics, Sexuality, Society, Women
Language(s): English
Director(s): Shelley Saywell
Producer(s): Shelley Saywell
Crimes of Honour


  • A documentary with the cumulative emotional impact of great tragedy
  • As powerful and moving a documentary as you will ever see. A+
  • Slams through stereotypes... Slowly, carefully, powerfully, Common Threads takes the cold statistics and gives them very recognizable faces.
  • Powerful and poignant, this is a lump-in-your-throat documentary that never sacrifices intelligence to emotion and never sensationalizes.
  • Simply stunning... a study in devotion and anger and courage at a dark time. And through it all, it's love that shines the brightest
  • An uncommon labor of love, compassion and bravery.
  • A great documentary.

Academic Notes

  • Visions of Struggle in Women's Filmmaking in the Mediterranean, By Flavia Laviosa
    "Filmed in Jordan and in the West Bank, the narrator takes viewers through the tragic lives of three Jordanian women, all brutally murdered by their own family members"

Quotes & Tweets

  • 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

Festival participation

  • Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, Canada 2003

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Additional Info

Production Company:
Distribution Company: Films Transit

  • 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 – though only after meeting at a police station, where one of her brothers signed a document promising not to harm her. 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.

    CRIMES OF HONOUR tells the stories of women like Rania, hiding from their families, fearing for their lives, as well as the men who commit femicide. One such man, interviewed in prison, discusses his reasons for murdering his sister.

    Femicide, although having no basis in Islamic teachings, is on the rise in some countries. CRIMES OF HONOUR delves into class and religious issues that infuse the debate, as well as the possible origins of femicide.

    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 (Judges often hand down sentences as short as a year). And, Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kervorkian founded the Women’s Work Center for Legal Aid and Counseling in the West Bank. Here she provides aid and counseling to frightened women with no place to turn.

    This wrenching new film captures the horrific tragedy of this practice, personal reactions to it, and examines the wider societal response. From the courthouses to the jails to the hiding places of terrified young women, the film puts before the viewer the horrific facts, and the accounts of three women fighting to end CRIMES OF HONOUR.

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Crimes of Honour

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