Length: 53 minutes (ARTE, 2 Aug. 2005, 8:40 p.m.)
Fatma Bläser was threatened with death by her own family because first she refused to marry the man who had been chosen for her, then proceeded to flee to her German boyfriend. Her brothers and uncles laid siege to the house for 6 weeks, dead set to kill her in order to cleanse the family’s honour. Fatma was able to hide. For over 15 years she had no contact with her family except for clandestine rendezvous with her mother. Her father is now an elderly man. Fatma would like to reconcile things with him. Though he has become milder with age, he doesn’t regret what he and the other men in the family did back then. Fatma is uncertain: How is the clan in Turkey going to react, the same people who had banished her from their midst at the time? We accompany her to her native Kurdish village, 1500 kilometres away from Istanbul on the border to the former Soviet Union. We observe how Fatma cautiously approaches a world that was once her homeland, yet today is so foreign to her. Fatma recalls the time when she was 8 years old and watched a woman be stoned to death who had been accused of being an adultress. She searches for the grave, only to hear that “disgraces” like that are scantily buried far off in the mountains.
Hatun Sürücü was also thrown out by her family. She too longed for contact once again, but her story ended tragically: She was murdered by her 3 brothers. The motive: She had separated from the husband her family had chosen for her and wanted to raise Can, her son, all by herself. The crime occurred out in the open on a street in Berlin: The older brothers posted themselves as lookouts, the youngest took the pistol and fired. Families frequently select the youngest male because they know he will receive a milder sentence when prosecuted according to juvenile penal law. Her friends and colleagues at work are shocked speechless, but immigration has carried this barbaric tradition straight into the heart of Europe. Hatun’s family originally came from south-eastern Turkey as well. The traditions there call for brothers to watch out that sisters remain “pristine” until marriage. Misbehaviour must be atoned for: The family’s honour has been soiled and the family itself now runs the risk of being expelled by the village community. This still plays a viable role, even in today’s Berlin, because the clans remain in close contact, including those relatives who have stayed behind in Turkey.
Killing for honour is a matter not limited solely to Turks and Kurds. It is still prevalent among people from other regions, too, for instance Albanians. Warning signs of impending conflicts often appear years in advance: Ulerika Gashi came from Kosovo to Germany with her family when she was 2 years old. The father beat the mother frequently. Later on, the 4 daughters received the same treatment, above all Ulerika when, at the age of 16, she began to wear make-up and fashionable clothes. Once the father found out that Ulerika already had a boyfriend, he strangled her with a piece of adhesive tape in the cellar of their house, then tossed the corpse into a gravel-pit lake.
Many use Islam to justify these killings for honour, but actually not a word in the Koran refers directly to the topic. On the other hand, only few imams take an open stance against this pre-Islamic custom. Even so, powers do exist that are willing to help when conflicts of honour occur: for instance a Kurdish member of the state parliament in Berlin, a Turkish cultural association in Paris, and “Rosa e.V.” in Stuttgart, an association that maintains an number of flats for girls only. Young women whose family councils have sentenced them to death can hide there. There, as well as at one of the strictly guarded safe houses for women in Istanbul, the situation becomes clear that beatings alone do not suffice to drive a Turkish woman into a safe house. The feeling of disgrace is overwhelming, even for the women themselves. Most of them don’t flee until the first attempt is made to kill them. They flee to save their lives and the lives of their children.
Film-maker Kadriye Acar, who grew up in Germany as the daughter of Turkish parents, and her fellow colleague Valentin Thurn spoke with Turkish, Kurdish and Kosovar women to make their documentary filmed in Germany, France and Turkey. These women are hiding out in anonymous, high-rise residential buildings and strictly guarded safe houses for women so that they can save their lives and the lives of their children. The film also illustrates the stories of 2 women who, despite being banished and threatened with death, sought out contact with their families again years later. Why? An insatiable yearning for life within the bosom of an extended family. One of them, Fatma Bläser, who had come to Germany as a child, was able to patch things up with the relatives in her native Kurdish village. The other, Hatun Sürücü, paid for the attempt to reapproach her family with her life: murdered on a street in Berlin by her own brothers. The film also visits one of only 2 safe houses for women in Istanbul, thereby making only too clear how similar the fates of these persecuted women are – whether in Berlin or in Istanbul.
Video (ca. 10 mn(German))
A Film by Valentin Thurn und Kadriye Acar
Camera: Boris Fromageot und Rainer Speidel
Production: Heike Kunze/Telekult
Executive Producer: Ulrike Dotzer/NDR