Deeyah Khan

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Deeyah Khan
دیا خان
Born (1977-08-07) August 7, 1977 (age 39)
Oslo, Norway
Nationality Norwegian
Occupation Film director
Music producer
CEO of Fuuse
Years active 1992–present
Known for Banaz a Love Story

Deeyah Khan (Urdu: دیا خان‎, pronounced [d̪iːaːˈxaːn], born 7 August 1977 in Oslo, Norway), is a Norwegian film director, music producer, composer and human rights defender [1] of Punjabi/Pashtun descent. She is an outspoken supporter of women's rights, freedom of expression and peace.

She is the founder and CEO of production company Fuuse. Her debut film as director and producer, Banaz A Love Story (2012), won a Peabody Award (2013) and won the 2013 Emmy Award for Best International Documentary Film and British Royal Television Society nomination for Best Current Affairs Documentary. In 2015 she made a film where she sets out to find out why the jihadi message has such an alluring hold on young Westerners. In Jihad: A Story of the Others, Deeyah meets one of the godfathers of the British jihad, who went abroad to fight, and who preached extremism to thousands of young Muslims across the UK and the West.

She is the founder and producer of World Woman, an annual international festival of art and activism in Oslo.

Deeyah is the recipient of several awards for her work supporting freedom of expression, in 2012 she was awarded the Ossietzky prize by Norwegian PEN.


Birth and ancestry[edit]

Khan was born at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo, Norway to Muslim parents. Deeyah has a brother named Adil Khan, a screen and theater actor.

Music training and early career[edit]

Khan started her career as a music artist, a singer and stage performer in the public eye in Norway from the age of 7. At first she was a singer and performer of traditional South Asian classical and folk music, then became a composer and producer of world music. Khan's father was a music enthusiast and in 1984 placed his seven-year-old daughter under the supervision of Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan. Deeyah studied Pakistani and North Indian classical forms of music under him.[citation needed]

At the age of eight, Deeyah made her first performance on national television appearing on the primetime show Halv Sju, then performed at festivals. Deeyah was also the member of NRK girls choir as well receiving some music lessons with African American soprano Anne Brown. She also spent several years receiving further musical training from Ustad Sultan Khan..[citation needed]

Because music is considered to be a dishonourable profession for women in many Muslim communities Khan faced severe abuse and death threats for several years in Norway. Initially the harassment and condemnation were directed towards her parents: "I remember my dad having to defend the fact that I was doing music, even as a child. I remember this at eight, nine years old where ... various people come to the house and say, 'We don't even let our sons do it, why would you let your daughter do this?'".[2]

Despite the increased pressure and threats of violence Khan's family continued to support her. After being attacked on stage at her own concert and sustained intimidation she subsequently moved to London at the age of 17 to live and work. According to British commentator Nick Cohen, "No one came to Deeyah's defence. Not liberal-left or compassionate conservative politicians. Not the BBC or liberal press. Not Amnesty International or the "concerned" artists who take up so many leftish causes. No one cared. To defend an Asian woman from unprovoked attacks by Asian men was to their warped minds a racist or Islamophobic act. Unprotected and unnoticed, Deeyah slunk off to live in an anonymous suburb of Atlanta, and begin the long task of pulling herself together.[3]


  • 2007: Ataraxis(Album) [4]
  • 2005: Plan of My Own / "I Saw You" 2005 – UK #37[5]
  • 1996: Deepika (Album)[6]
  • 1995: Color Of My Dreams (Single)[7]
  • 1995: History (Single)[8]
  • 1995: Get Off My Back (Single)[9]
  • 1992: I alt slags lys (Album).[10]

Music production[edit]

Khan has continued to work in the music industry as a composer and music producer.

  • 2013: Iranian Woman (compilation album featuring Iranian female artists)[11]
  • 2013: Echoes Of Indus CD featuring Pakistani sitarist Ashraf Sharif Khan Poonchwala
  • 2012: Nordic Woman (compilation album featuring female artists of traditional Nordic music forms from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. The first release from Deeyah's WOMAN music album series. Produced by Deeyah.)
  • 2010: Listen To The Banned (compilation album featuring banned, persecuted and imprisoned artists from Africa, The Middle East and Asia. As well as receiving critical acclaim the album peaked at number 6 on the World Music Charts Europe and spent months on these charts.[12] Amnesty International in the UK is supporting Listen To The Banned by making the album available through their website end of 2010.[13]


Deeyah conceived of and founded Sister-hood in 2007,[14] whose aim is to provide an outlet of artistic expression for young aspiring Muslim female artists in different disciplines. Sister-hood was relaunched in 2016 as a global online magazine and live events platform promoting the voices of women of Muslim heritage.

Khan founded Memini in early 2011, a global digital initiative to promote remembrance of victims of honour killings worldwide.[15] Memini was given a True Honour award by UK charity Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation along with several other UK campaigners.[citation needed]

In February 2012, Khan founded Honour Based Violence Awareness network with Joanne Payton of Cardiff University[16] (HBVA), a digital resource centre working to advance understanding and awareness of Honour Killings and Honour Based Violence through research, training and information.[17]


Banaz: A Love Story[edit]

Deeyah has been active in raising awareness of honour killings for several years. In early 2009 she directed and produced Banaz: A Love Story, a documentary film about honour killings. The film received its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London September 2012.[18] This was Deeyah's first film as a director and producer. It has won critical acclaim and international awards, including the 2013 Emmy award for best international documentary film. The film is being used to train British police.[19]


Year Title Functioned as Note Type
2016 Islam's Non-Believers Director and Producer Uk premiere on ITV1 on 13 October 2016. Documentary
2015 Jihad: A Story of the Others' Director and Producer

Won New York International Independent Film and Video Festival award as Best Short Documentary. Received Norwegian Ministry of Arts & Culture Human Rights Award for the documentary Jihad.[20] Nomination for Grierson Awards.[21] Nomination for British Academy Film Awards in Best Current Affairs Documentary.[22] Nomination for the 56th Golden Nymph Award in Current Affair's Documentary at Monte-Carlo Television Festival.

2012 Banaz a Love Story Director and Producer

Won a Peabody Award (2013). Won Emmy Award for Best International Documentary Film (2013). Won Bergen International Film Festival award for Best Norwegian Documentary (2013). Royal Television Society nomination for Best Current Affairs Documentary.



  • 2016: Deeyah Khan appointed Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO for artistic freedom and creativity.[23][24] She is the not just the first ever Norwegian who has been appointed as a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO, but also the first ever goodwill ambassador for artistic freedom and creativity.[25]
  • 2016: Deeyah Khan received Telenor Culture Award for her artistic achievements which touch on some of the most important themes of our own times, like women`s rights, freedom of expression and its fundamental values.[26]
  • 2016: Deeyah Khan received Peer Gynt Prize which is given to individuals or institutions who have highlighted Norway internationally.[27]
  • 2016: Deeyah Khan was Awarded Gunnar Sønstebys Memorial Fund, which was established in 2015, in the memory of Gunnar Sønsteby. The purpose of this award is to honour those individuals or organisations who has emerged as a courageous defender of the fundamental values of democracy and helped to ensure the country's freedom and independence.[28]
  • 2015: Deeyah was awarded the Norwegian Ministry of Arts & Culture Human Rights Award for the Fuuse documentary Jihad.[29]
  • 2015: Deeyah was awarded the University of Oslo’s Human Rights Award for being a champion of women's rights and freedom of expression through her art and activism.[30]
  • 2015: Deeyah was selected as a Ford Foundation Visiting Fellow for their program The Art Of Change.[31]
  • 2015: Deeyah was selected as Young Global Leader in the field of the arts.[32]
  • 2015: Deeyah was awarded Plan Jentepris (Girls award which is held on every 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child) from its Norwegian branch.[33]
  • 2013: Deeyah was shortlisted for the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award.
  • 2013 Bergen International Film Festival
  • 2013: Deeyah received an Emmy Award for Best International Current Affairs Film for her film about Banaz.
  • 2013: Deeyah received a Peabody Award for her film about Banaz Mahmod.
  • 2012: Deeyah was awarded the Ossietzky prize which is Norwegian PEN´s prize for outstanding achievements within the field of freedom of expression
  • 2009: Deeyah was awarded the international Freedom to Create Prize alongside Cont Mhlanga, The Zimbabwean playwright and Belarus Free Theatre for Sisterhood.[34]
  • 2006: one of Khan's music videos was used as part of an art exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in which leading national and international theorists, critics and artists addressed topical concerns in contemporary visual culture.
  • 1996:The Scheiblers Legat presented to Khan an Honor Award for being a cultural bridge, for creating understanding and tolerance through her musical and artistic contributions.[35]


  1. ^ "10 Music Artistes Who Support The Cause To End Violence Against Women activist". Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "CNN LIVE TODAY". 27 March 2006. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  3. ^ NICK COHEN (December 2012). "The Cowardice of the Liberal Press". Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 148. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ "Deepika". 1996. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "Deepika Thathaal". Retrieved 7 August 2016. 
  8. ^ MAGNUS S. RØNNINGEN (12 August 2003). "Deepika trosser truslene". Retrieved 7 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "Release title: Deepika Thathaal - Get Off My Back". Retrieved 7 August 2016. 
  10. ^ "Deepika– I alt slags lys". 1992. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  11. ^ Robin Denselow (24 October 2013). "Various: Deeyah presents Iranian Woman – review". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "World Music Charts Europe". July 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Listen To The Banned – Amnesty International UK Shop. Order Online Anytime Archived 9 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Vixy. "Deeyah Presents SISTERHOOD". Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  15. ^ Shubhi Tandon (May 2011). "New site brings dignity to victims of honor-violenc". Retrieved 23 June 2011. 
  16. ^ "HBVA". 
  17. ^ Denise Turner (28 February 2012). "Activist launches new Honour Based Violence Awareness network". Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Orestes Kouzof. "Banaz: A Love Story". Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  19. ^ Tracy McVeigh (13 October 2013). "Her film about an 'honour' killing won an Emmy. Now it's being used to train police". Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  20. ^ Sveinung Stoveland (4 November 2015). "Deeyah Khan får menneskerettspris for modig film om religiøse krigere" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  21. ^ NTB (29 July 2016). "Deeyah Khan nominert til prestisjetung britisk dokumentarpris for Jihad-film." (in Norwegian). Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  22. ^ "Television in 2016- Television/ Current Affairs on 2016". 30 March 2016. Retrieved 30 March 2016. 
  23. ^ UNESCO Press release (17 November 2016). "Filmmaker, music producer Deeyah Khan named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for artistic freedom and creativity". Retrieved 17 November 2016. 
  24. ^ GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY, Press release (1 November 2016). "Deeyah Khan Becomes UN Ambassador". Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  25. ^ Kadafi Zaman (1 November 2016). "Ble mobbet og truet ut av Norge – nå blir hun Norges første goodwill-ambassadør for FN" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  26. ^ NTB (6 September 2016). "Deeyah Khan:Får kulturpris på en halv million" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  27. ^ HARALD STANGHELLE (12 August 2016). "En flyktning med sin Peer Gynt" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 15 August 2016. 
  28. ^ Paal Wergeland, Ida Creed (8 January 2016). "Sønstebys minnepris til Khan og Bakkevig" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 10 January 2015. 
  29. ^ "Menneskerettspris til Deeyah Khan" (in Norwegian). 4 November 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  30. ^ "Art of Change Fellow Deeyah Khan is Awarded the University of Oslo's Human Rights Award". 21 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  31. ^ "The Art of Change: Meet Our Visiting Fellows". 7 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  32. ^ "Young Global Leaders: the class of 2015". Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  33. ^ Claudio Castello (13 October 2015). "Filmskaper fikk Plans Jentepris 2015" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 13 October 2015. 
  34. ^ "Muslim singer Deeyah wins Freedom Award". 1 December 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  35. ^ "Stiftelsen Scheibler, Prisvinnere 1993–1998" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 9 January 2011. 

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