|Directed by||Micah Smith|
|Music by||Sharon Farber|
|Edited by||Micah Smith|
|Distributed by||Brainstorm Media|
Honor Diaries is a 2013 documentary film by producer Paula Kweskin. Honor Diaries explores violence against women in honor-based societies, with particular focus on female genital mutilation (FGM), violence against women and honor killings and forced marriage, and lack of access to education. The film profiles nine women’s rights activists with origins in the Muslim (and non-Muslim) world, and follows their efforts to effect change, both within their communities and beyond. Honor Diaries premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival in October 2013 and won the Interfaith Award for Best Documentary at the St. Louis International Film Festival in November 2013. It was featured from December 2013 through April 2014 on DirecTV’s Audience Network as part of the Something to Talk About film series.
Honor Diaries traces the work of nine women’s rights advocates who came together to engage in a discourse about gender inequality and honor-based violence. Combining in-depth interviews and round-table discussions with archival footage, the film examines human rights violations in honor-based societies, and the growing trend of honor crimes in Western societies.
Honor Diaries is divided into five main sections. The film begins with a broad analysis of women’s rights in Muslim-majority countries, drawing attention to issues such as lack of access to education and restrictions on movement. From there, the film expands on three major crimes targeting women: forced marriage, honor killings and female genital mutilation (FGM). In the final chapter, the documentary explores the rising trend of honor-based violence in Western societies, and efforts to silence voices of opposition by intimidation.
The film features in-depth interviews and salon discussions with nine women’s rights activists who represent diverse communities throughout the Muslim and non-Muslim world. The women reside in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Sudan. In the documentary, the featured women share their stories from their personal lives, professional work and their struggle to fight for broad-scale change.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Founder of the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture. Ayaan, born in Somalia, escaped an arranged marriage by emigrating to the Netherlands. She served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003-2006
- Nazanin Afshin-Jam - President and Co-Founder of Stop Child Executions Campaign, an international organization that works to end executions of juveniles worldwide. Nazanin is the recipient of several human rights awards and has spoken at the United Nations and the European Union. In addition to activist work, Nazanin is an author, actor, model and former Miss World Canada.
- Dr. Qanta Ahmed – Author of In the Land of Invisible Women, which has been published in 13 countries, details Ahmed’s experience living and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Qanta is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, writing articles about political and religious issues pertaining to Islam, the Middle East, medicine and global health diplomacy. She is a member of the Board of Directors for Women’s Voices Now (WVN). Qanta is an Associate Professor of Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook.
- Nazie Eftekhari - Founder, Chair and CEO of HealthEZ Inc., Nazie is a board member of the Iranian-American Political Action Committee and founder of The Araz Group, the first preferred provider organization in the U.S.. In 2011, she established The Foundation for the Children of Iran.
- Manda Zand Ervin – Founder and President of the Alliance of Iranian Women. Manda is an Iranian political refugee working to bring attention to the plight of Iranian women under Islamic Sharia law. In 2009, Manda was the featured speaker on Iran at the G-8 International Conference on Violence Against Women. She is the winner of the Speaker of Truth award.
- Fahima Hashim – Director, Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in Khartoum, Sudan. Fahima is a women’s rights activist, researcher and trainer. Her work focuses on women’s rights and sexuality, violence against women and youth in conflict and post-conflict situations. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, led by the Nobel Women's Initiative, and a council member of Women Living under Muslim Laws Network.
- Zainab Khan – Clinical psychologist and advocate for global education and gender equality. Zainab has worked with survivors of domestic violence, primarily with the South Asian community. An artist, Zainab’s pieces have been featured in numerous exhibitions globally, primarily focusing on women’s rights.
- Raheel Raza – President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. Raheel is an author, professional speaker, and founder of Forum 4 Learning, which promotes learning in the fields of cultural and religious diversity and interfaith harmony. Raheel is the author of Their Jihad…Not My Jihad. She also works as a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker. Raheel frequently speaks at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. She is the first Muslim woman in Canada to lead mixed gender prayers.
- Jasvinder Sanghera – Founder and Chief Executive of Karma Nirvana, a UK-based non-profit organization which operates a nationwide helpline supporting all those impacted by forced marriages and honor-based violence. Jasvinder is a survivor of a forced marriage. She is also the author of two bestselling books, Shame and Daughters of Shame, as well as the recently published Shame Travels. She has been credited for her role in bringing about the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act of 2007. Jasvinder has been recognized as an Ambassador for Peace by the Women’s Federation of Peace and was awarded the Pride of Britain award in 2009. On March 24, 2013, Jasvinder was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen.
- Raquel Saraswati – Activist, writer and commentator on issues related to Islam, human rights and international affairs. She lectures and publishes internationally on topics including honor-based violence, forced and child marriage, the challenge of political Islam, and the role of women in transforming the Muslim world.
- Juliana Taimoorazy - Founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, a non-profit organization that helps foster awareness about the plight of Iraqi Christians, and to raise funds to deliver food and medicine to Iraq. Juliana, an Assyrian Christian, fled Iran in 1989 due to religious persecution. She works to provide relief for persecuted Christians in the Middle East and advocates on their behalf in Washington, DC.
Film production began in April 2012, prompted by producer Paula Kweskin’s participation in the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) conference in Turkey. There, Kweskin was introduced to numerous women’s rights activists, including Fahima Hashim, Director of the Salmmah Women’s Resource Center in Sudan and one of the featured women in Honor Diaries.
The nine women who are profiled in the film met for the first time at a gathering in June 2012 in New York. The film’s producers based the concept of the meeting on the salons of the French Enlightenment, in which women hosted assemblies of intellectuals to discuss progressive issues of the day. Subsequently, producers filmed women separately, in their home towns.
After more than a year in production, the film was completed in May 2013.
- Producer and writer of Honor Diaries, Paula Kweskin, is an Israeli human rights attorney specializing in humanitarian law. She received her J.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and is a member of the New York Bar. Honor Diaries is Kweskin’s first film.
- Co-Producer Heidi Basch-Harod is the Executive Director of Women’s Voices Now. She is the author and editor of numerous print and online articles and op-eds that examine the rights of women in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Executive Producer Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a two-time NY Times bestselling author for her works Infidel and Nomad, and is the founder of the AHA Foundation.
- Director and Editor, Micah Smith. His documentaries have screened in more than 40 film festivals worldwide.
- Producer and Writer, Alex Traiman. Traiman directed Iranium.
- Executive Producer Raphael Shore is an Israeli filmmaker who has produced other films such as Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision For America, and Iranium.
The film website claims the following organizations have supported the promotion and distribution of Honor Diaries:
- AHA Foundation
- All Afghan Women's Union
- Alliance of Iranian Women
- American Islamic Forum for Democracy
- Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center
- A Call To Men
- Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
- Canadian Women's Foundation
- The Clarion Project
- Congress of Racial Equality
- Cooperation Center for Afghanistan
- Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
- Fistula Foundation
- Girls' Globe
- Karma Nirvana
- Men Can Stop Rape
- The MILLA Project
- Nika Water
- Shuhada Organization
- Women’s Voices Now
- World Pulse
Release and reception
Honor Diaries premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival in October 2013. One month later, the film screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival, where it won the Interfaith Award for Best Documentary. It featured throughout December 2013 on DirecTV’s Something to Talk About film series on the Audience network (Channel 239).
The international launch of Honor Diaries is scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2014.
Although the film has yet to be officially released, it has been cited by the following media sources.
- Make no mistake: The work of the nine activists featured in [Honor Diaries] is extremely important as they fight for women’s rights. – LATimes.com/Red Eye Review
- [Honor Diaries] consists of a roundtable discussion by nine courageous and highly articulate women of different ages, all from Muslim majority countries …. They speak eloquently, with reasoned passion, about their personal experiences and of threats against them, and talk of their efforts to change the situation of women in their country of origin and in the wider world. – The Commentator
Some critics contend that the producers could have probed deeper on issues facing women in Muslim societies.
Writing in Patheos, author Samya notes that there is a lack of balance "when certain concepts are discussed", and that "they tend to lack balance in their presentation...the film talks about female genital mutilation, a practice that is neither advocated in Islam nor appears in Quran, but has been adopted by some Muslim societies, as mentioned in the film by Qanta Ahmed...the film presents a Muslim preacher, Sheikh Yussuf Al Badri, from Al Azhar Islamic University in Cairo, saying: “circumcision is the reason why Muslim women are virtuous, unlike Western women who run after their sexual appetite in any place with any man.” When considering this example, I just wonder why filmmakers have chosen to play up the views of this scholar rather than the anti-circumcision views advocated by the film...For me, it gives the impression that “Islam” supports such actions, rather than acknowledging the many Muslim communities and individuals that don’t practice it or that advocate against it."
- Curtis, Michael (November 30, 2013). "No More Honor-Killings of Women in the Middle East". American Thinker.
- "2013 SLIFF Film Awards". St. Louis International Film Festival.
- "Honor Diaries". DIRECTV.
- Ahmed, Dr. Qanta (2008). In the Land of Invisible Women. Sourcebooks Inc. ISBN 1402210876.
- "EMET's Fifth annual dinner Rays of Light in the Darkness". Endowment for Middle East Truth.
- "Advisory Committee".
- "Raheel Raza". Gatestone Institute.
- "Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007". The National Archives.
- "Jasvinder Sanghera". Women of the Year. July 30, 2012.
- "Pride of Britain Award Winners 2009". The Pride of Britain Awards. 2009.
- "Queen's birthday honours list 2013: GCB, DBE and CBE". The Guardian. 15 June 2013.
- "Paula Kweskin". SheSource. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- "2013 SLIFF Film Awards". Cinema St. Louis. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- "Remi Winners - 2011". WorldFest - Houston. Archived from the original on 2013-12-07.
- "Partner Organizations". Honor Diaries. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- "Honor Diaries". Los Angeles Times. October 7, 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- Curtis, Michael (1 December 2013). "No honour in the killing of women". The Commentator. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- Samya (January 6, 2014). "Honor Diaries: A Real Conversation on Women's Rights or a Scratch on the Surface?". Patheos. Retrieved 9 February 2014.