Is Murdered By My Father A True Story?
The Debrief: Actress Kiran Sonia Sawar, who stars in Murdered By My Father the new BBC3 drama, talks to us about honour killings and why we need to open up the dialogue surrounding the issue.
In the last five years an estimated 60 young women have been murdered in the UK in the name of ‘honour’. As if that's not enough, a further 12,000 have been the victims of ‘honour’ crimes which include both beatings and abductions.
In actual fact, these numbers may be a lot higher – many British girls at risk simply ‘disappear’; victims of overseas forced marriages or worse. Last year, the Forced Marriage Unit, a task force comprised of the Foreign Office and the Home Office up to deal with the issue, reports that it dealt with 1,220 cases, taking an average of 350 calls a month. The calls came from many different communities within the UK.
BBC Three have now taken the issue of forced marriage and honour killings to task with their new documentary/drama Murdered By My Father, available now on iPlayer. Following on from last year’s groundbreaking Murdered By My Boyfriend about domestic violence, Murdered By My Father pulls together real life anonymous cases to create one coherent tale about what a girl faced with the prospect of forced marriage is up against.
The drama follows 16-year-old Salma, played by Kiran Sonia Sawar, who comes from a single parent family. In between looking after her father and younger brother, she is trying to finish her college course when she falls in love with her best friend’s brother Imi. Unfortunately, her father, played by Adeel Ahktar, already has plans for marrying her to his boss’s hapless son Haroon. As you can probably guess from the film's title, things don't end well.
‘It was hard.’ Kiran says when we ask her about making the film - especially the film's harrowing final scene. ‘It was just so constant in my mind though that it wasn’t an inch on what these actual girls go through everyday. To be fearful of the people that are here to protect you – your parents...?' She says incredulously.
The film was created from different testimonies and stories of real life events collected with help from Karma Nirvana, a UK charity supporting victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour based abuse and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) who seek to protect Middle Eastern and Afghan women at risk from a number of culturally specific threats. ‘It was difficult but also incredible because it allowed me to really delve into the psychology of these girls and how trapped they must feel,’ Says Kiran of dealing with real life stories. ‘How they’re left without choice... It is such a fundamental part of being a human. As an actor objectively it was an absolutely privilege to be able to tell the story, but in terms of filming it was hard work.’
What the film strives to do, and succeeds in, is to show that honour-based crime and forced marriage is not the tragedy of some far off culture. It’s happening to that girl behind you in the queue at Starbucks, the girl giggling over her phone on the bus, the girl sat next to you at work. Salma is an average, London-dwelling teenager, hanging out with friends, fighting with her little brother, gluing herself to her phone and getting gooey-eyed over a boy. Kiran says it was important for them to show that it's not an issue limited to one community. ‘It’s not “Oh this is a Pakistani problem” or “oh this is a Malaysian problem”, its an issue that happens in communities across the world and it’s a solvable problem but there’s a taboo in talking about it.’ She says. 'People assume that it’s somebody else’s problem so there’s never a dialogue set up for it to be discussed. There needs to be more awareness’
Increased awareness is leading to a more positive future; last year the first person in the UK was jailed for forced marriage after admitting that he forced a 25-year-old woman to become his 'wife'. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Additionally, the numbers of cases reported to the FMU last year, were the lowest in years.
However, the Forced Marriage Unit say themselves reported crimes definitely don’t account for all crimes, ‘The fact that self-reports represent a smaller proportion of calls,’ They say, referring to the fact that 80% of calls were from people who knew the victim rather than the victim themselves, ‘may reflect the hidden nature of forced marriages and that victims may fear reprisals from their family if they come forward.' In other words, because so few calls came from the victims themselves, there's more than likely plenty more victims out there, too afraid to get in touch.
Whether the numbers of forced marriages are dropping or are being forced further underground, films like Murdered By My Father remain important. It’s the reason Kiran got involved in the first place. ‘I just felt it was a really good opportunity to voice the voiceless girls in our society.’ She says, hoping that the film might give some girls affected the courage to speak up about their own situations. She adds that ‘there is help available if young girls do feel they’re safe enough to speak out about it.’
‘I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in a position like this,' She says. 'But, what I do know is that a young girl or woman or anyone shouldn’t be afraid that their life is at risk; especially by their parents. That’s your safe house, that’s your home. And to live in constant fear is completely unacceptable.’
Murdered By My Father is available now on iPlayer.
You might also be interested in:
25-Year-Old Woman Stoned To Death By Her Father And Brothers In Pakistan
Syrian Refugee Girls' Pictures Of Forced Marriage Show They're Anything But OK With It
Model Killed Herself After Taking Out Forced Marriage Protection Order Against Her Parents
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