Deeyah Khan

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Deeyah Khan
Deeyah Khan.jpg
Deeyah Khan at 25th Session of the Human Rights Council at UN Geneva on 11 March 2014.
Born (1977-08-07) August 7, 1977 (age 38)
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.

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[2] by Norwegian PEN.


Birth and ancestry[edit]

Deeyah was born at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo, Norway to Sunni Muslim parents. [3] She was given the name Deepika at birth, in reverence of an Indian woman who took care of her mother during pregnancy. She adopted the name Deeyah in 2002. [4] Deeyah has a brother named Adil Khan a public figure in Norway known for his work as a screen and theater actor.

Deeyah's music training & Early Career[edit]

Deeyah started her career as a music artist, a singer and stage performer in the public eye in Norway from the age of 7. In the first half of her music career she was a singer and performer of traditional South Asian classical and folk music. She then became a pop star and eventually became a composer and producer of world music.

Deeyah's father was a music enthusiast. Through his musical organisation, he invited classical musical maestros from Pakistan to teach music to young people. He ensured that music became an essential part of both of his children's upbringing and in 1984 entrusted 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 the grand maestro who would later declare her amongst his favourites.[citation needed]

Khan was aware of the talent the little girl held in herself and urged her to openly sing in public. The following year, at the age of eight, Deeyah made her first performance on national television appearing on the primetime show Halv Sju. She would later perform at various festivals and celebrated as the youngest performer at major music festivals. Deeyah was also the member of NRK girls choir as well receiving some music lessons with the late African American soprano Anne Brown. Deeyah also spent several years receiving further musical training from Ustad Sultan Khan. Deeyah is considered among the very few female students to train under the classical Pakistani music maestro ustad Bade fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Sultan Khan.[citation needed]

In her longstanding music career as recording artist and performer Deeyah has worked with Jan Garbarek, Bob James, The Police guitarist Andy Summers, Nils Petter Molvaer, David Lindley, Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan, Ustad Sultan Khan, Talvin Singh, Knut Reiersrud, Nazim Ali Khan, Anders Wyller, Tor Erik Hermansen, Tommy Tee, Steven Fargnoli, Seb Taylor, Novel, Bonecrusher, Liquid Stranger, Masaladosa, Mark Smith, Futility Orchestra, Guy Chambers and Kaya Project

Because music is considered to be a dishonourable and unrespectable profession for women in many Muslim communities Deeyah faced severe abuse and death threats for several years in Norway. Initially the harassment and condemnation was directed towards Deeyah's parents.

Despite the increased pressure and violent threats Deeyah'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.


Music Producer[edit]

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

  • 2013: Iranian Woman (compilation album featuring Iranian female artists)[8]
  • 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 Listen To The Banned album has peaked at number 6 on the World Music Charts Europe and spent months on these charts.[9] Amnesty International in the UK is supporting Listen To The Banned by making the album available through their website end of 2010.[10]


Banaz: A Love Story[edit]

Deeyah has been active in raising awareness of honour killings for several years. Since early 2009 she has been directing and producing 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.[11] It is Deeyah's first film as a director and producer which 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.[12]


Year Title Functioned as Notes Type
2015 JIHAD: a story of the others Director Documentary
2015 Sisters Executive Producer Documentary
2012 Banaz a Love Story Director and Producer Documentary



Deeyah conceived of and founded Sisterhood in 2007.[14] Sisterhood provides an outlet of artistic expression for young aspiring Muslim female artists across creative disciplines. Deeyah's goal with Sisterhood is to empower young Muslim women by giving them an outlet to express their creativity.

Sisterhood is also widely seen to be a network of support for young creative Muslim women in dealing with their challenges both culturally and artistically. Sisterhood is an ongoing initiative and is today an organic movement consisting of young Muslim women based around the world especially in Europe and USA.

Sisterhood projects[edit]


Deeyah 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.

Honour Based Violence Awareness (HBVA)[edit]

Launched in February 2012, Deeyah and Joanne Payton of Cardiff University founded Honour Based Violence Awareness network[16] (HBVA), an international multimedia digital resource centre working to advance understanding and awareness of Honour Killings and Honour Based Violence through research, training and information.[17]

Other Activism[edit]

  • Deeyah is a vocal supporter of ICAHK (International Campaign Against Honour Killings).
  • Deeyah is a supporter of Freemuse's appeal to Turkish Prime Minister standing in solidarity with Ferhat Tunç.[18]
  • Deeyah is a supporter of the International Coalition for Women's Rights, Manifesto of Liberation of Women in Iran.[19]
  • Deeyah is a supporter of the "Iran Solidarity Movement".[20]
  • Deeyah is a signatory and supporter of the One Law For All Campaign (No to faith-based arbitration! No to Sharia family law).
  • Deeyah is a supporter and signatory on the "Manifesto of the Third Camp Against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism".[21]
  • Deeyah was the judge for Maryam Namazie's One Law For All Art competition along with other judges Philosopher AC Grayling, Journalist and Columnist Polly Toynbee.[22]
  • Deeyah is the judge for international art competition Passion For Freedom London Festival along with other judges Gary Hill, Sarah Maple and Lee Weinberg.[23]


  • Rikskonsertene Award given to Deeyah for musical contributions to Norwegian society and cultural diversity. Deeyah has done several projects with Rikskonsertene performing for school children and being a part of teaching music workshops to students. Deeyah's images and participation has often been used in the Norwegian education system.
  • The Norwegian Pakistan W.W. Union Award, which was given to Deeyah to honor her for her musical and artistic contribution and for being a positive role model for children and youth.
  • The Scheiblers Legat, presented to Deeyah an Honor Award for being a cultural bridge, for creating understanding and tolerance through her musical and artistic contributions.[24]
  • In 2006, one of Deeyah's music videos was used as part of an art exhibition at The Stedelijk Museum where leading national and international theorists, critics and artists address topical issues in contemporary visual culture.
  • In 2009 Deeyah was awarded with the international Freedom to Create Prize alongside Cont Mhlanga, The Zimbabwean playwright and Belarus Free Theatre for Sisterhood.[25]
  • Deeyah was awarded the 2012 Ossietzky prize which is Norwegian PEN´s prize for outstanding achievements within the field of freedom of expression[26]
  • In 2013 Deeyah received a Peabody Award for her film about Banaz Mahmod.
  • Deeyah received an Emmy Award for Best International Current Affairs Film 2013 for her film about Banaz.
  • 2013 Bergen International Film Festival
  • Deeyah was shortlisted for the 2013 Liberty Human Rights Arts Award[27]
  • Deeyah is selected as Young Global Leader in 2015 in the field of the arts.[28]
  • Deeyah is selected as a Ford Foundation Visiting Fellow in 2015 for their program The Art Of Change.[29]



  1. ^ "10 Music Artistes Who Support The Cause To End Violence Against Women activist". Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Ossietzky Prize". 
  3. ^ "Breaking this wall of silence". FreeMuse. Retrieved 1 July 2008. 
  4. ^ Turner, Bill. "Deeyah's Ideas". Contra Magazine. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  5. ^ "CNN LIVE TODAY". 27 March 2006. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  6. ^ NICK COHEN (December 2012). "The Cowardice of the Liberal Press". Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 148. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  8. ^ Robin Denselow (24 October 2013). "Various: Deeyah presents Iranian Woman – review". Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "World Music Charts Europe". July 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  10. ^ Listen To The Banned - Amnesty International UK Shop. Order Online Anytime
  11. ^ Orestes Kouzof. "Banaz: A Love Story". Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ NICK COHEN (December 2012). "The Cowardice of the Liberal Press". Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  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. ^ "CAMPAIGN NEWS". 24 June 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  19. ^ "Equal Rights Now: Organisation Against Discrimination in Iran ¦ anti-stoning ¦ Hejab ¦ Veil ¦ Hoour Killings ¦ Sharia Law ¦ Gender Discrimaintion ¦ Cultural Relativism". 
  20. ^ Maryam Namazie. "Maryam Namazie". 
  21. ^ "Manifesto of the Third Camp agai". 
  22. ^ "One Law for All Art Competition Winners". 
  23. ^ "Selection Panel 2014". 28 June 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  24. ^ "Stiftelsen Scheibler, Prisvinnere 1993 - 1998". Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "Muslim singer Deeyah wins Freedom Award". 1 December 2008. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  26. ^ "Deeyah awarded Ossietzky Prize by Norwegian PEN". 12 November 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Young Global Leaders: the class of 2015". Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "The Art of Change: Meet Our Visiting Fellows". 7 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 

External links[edit]