In light of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, it is important to raise awareness about the abuse and oppression experienced by Muslim women across the globe. Unfortunately, news outlets and social media platforms hardly represent the plight of Muslim women, but the harsh reality is that they are victims to many forms of violence and abuse such as forced marriages, sexual abuse, honour killings, and more. Here are 16 films/documentaries that can educate us on some of the experiences faced by Muslim women - hopefully this awareness can act as an engine to fuel campaigns and reform that can positively impact the lives of Muslim women.
#1 Afghanistan: No Country for Women (2022)
Country featured: Afghanistan
In this episode of the Bafta-winning ITV Exposure series, Ramita Navai exposes the violence against women and girls enforced by the Taliban. She captures secret footage of women who have been kidnapped, tortured, and forced to marry Talibs, and accompanies an undercover network that aims to rescue of them. A more detailed summary about the series can be found here, while the full documentary can be watched on ITV or YouTube.
#2 Banaz: A Love Story (2012)
Country featured: Britain (London)
This documentary film produced and directed by Deeyah Khan is about the ‘honour killing’ of Banaz Mahmoud, a British Iraqi/Kurdish woman living in London. She was 17-years-old when her parents arranged her marriage with a man 10 years older, who she divorced soon after marrying. She was eventually killed by her family when she fell in love with someone they were ashamed of. This documentary won an Emmy for Best International Current Affairs in 2013, and can be watched on YouTube.
#3 What Will People Say (2017)
Country featured: Norway/Pakistan
This film is about a 16-year-old Pakistani girl, Nisha, who lives with her family in Norway. She leads a double live, obeying her parents at home but secretly partying and drinking when she’s out. When she gets caught with her boyfriend, her parents forcibly take her to Pakistan where she is restricted and beaten for living a life of her own. This film embodies the story of many young girls and women across the world, but Iram Haq, the director, based this on her own personal experience. You can watch it on Amazon Prime.
#4 A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015)
Country featured: Pakistan
This documentary film directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is about a young 19-year-old Pakistani girl who survives an ‘honour killing’ attempt by her family members. It touches upon the harsh Pakistani judicial system, and its widespread critical acclaim influenced the Pakistani government to review its honour killing laws. The film won an Oscar for Best Documentary and can be watched on Amazon Prime.
#5 Jaha’s Promise (2017)
Country featured: Gambia
This documentary film by The Guardian and Accidental Pictures is a documentary based onthe real life story of Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian who experienced and lived with FGM since one week old. When she was sent to America to get married, she realised the horror of what was done to her body and has become a campaigner advocating against FGM. You can watch the documentary on YouTube.
#6 Breaking Silence (2017)
Country featured: USA
This is short documentary directed by Nadya Ali shares stories of sexual assault experienced by three American Muslim women. It aims to open up conversation about the taboo nature of sexual assault within the Muslim community, which is usually unspoken about due to shame and dishonour. It won Best Documentary Short in Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival and can be watched on Women’s Voices Now.
#7 Dukhtar (2014)
Country featured: Pakistan
This a film directed by Afia Nathaniel about a mother and her daughter who flee their home in Pakistan to save the young 10-year-old from an arranged marriage with a tribal leader. The two are being hunted down while they pursue their dangerous journey to safety in Lahore. You can watch the full film on Amazon Prime.
#8 Dying to Divorce (2021)
Country featured: Turkey
This film captures the struggle of women in Turkey - it is said that one in three Turkish women have experienced domestic abuse. The storyline follows Ipek, a lawyer, who is determined to help clients fight back against abusive men and put them behind bars. These women put their lives at risk fighting for their freedom. The full film is available to watch here on Now TV.
#9 Saudi Women: Reform or Repression (2020)
Country featured: Saudi Arabia
This short documentary is about the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia. Activists investigate to what extent women have been liberated in light of apparent government support and reform. But it seems women are still unable to live freely. This documentary specifically follows five cases of Saudi women who are being detained or have fled the country. You can watch the full documentary here on Aljazeera.
#10 Murdered by My Father (2016)
Country featured: Britain
This drama film tells the story of an honour killing of a British Muslim teenage girl. Shahzad is a widowed father who raises his two children, Salma and Hassan. His idea of the best for his daughter is an arranged marriage, but she instead falls in love with someone else and left conflicted between family honour and her own freedom. I probably don’t need to say much more as the title gives it away! You can watch the full film here on BBC.
#11 Sabaya (2021)
Country featured: Syria
This Swedish documentary film is about a group who endanger their lives in attempts to save sex slaves who are held captive by ISIS. Two men rescue Leila, a young woman who has been detained in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East -Syria’s Al Hol. It was awarded the Best Documentary Feature Film for the 14th edition of the Asian Pacific Screen Awards. You can watch it on Youtube, Amazon Prime or Apple TV.
#12 A Regular Woman (2019)
Country featured: Germany
This film is about a Turkish German who wants to live a life of her own, but her brother doesn’t accept her lifestyle of hers so threatens her. She moves out of her home with her child when she no longer feels safe and eventually reports her brother to the police. The director, Sherry Hormann, decided to make this film based on the real-life honour killing of a woman named Aynur who was killed by her brother. You can watch it on Amaon Prime (USA).
#13 A Thousand Girls Like Me (2018)
Country featured: Afghanistan
This documentary, directed by Sahra Mani, is about a pregnant 23-year-old Afghan woman who is brave enough to tell her sexual abuse story on national TV. The perpetrator is her father, who she seeks punishment for, but struggles against the faulty judicial system of Afghanistan. She receives death threats from her uncle and is forced into hiding. You can watch the full documentary here.
#14 Qandeel (2017)
Country featured: Pakistan
This short documentary is about the real-life story of Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered because of her unconventional lifestyle. Becoming a social media celebrity, Qandeel lived a life opposed by Pakistan’s conservative society; she was an outspoken, fearless model and actor, and also posted provocative pictures and videos of herself online. The documentary tells her story using archived footage of her social media posts, while also shining light on the struggle and oppression women face living in Pakistan. You can watch the full documentary on Youtube.
#15 Lingui, The Sacred Bonds (2021)
Country featured: Chad
This is a film set in Chad about Amina, a single mother who discovers her teenage daughter, Maria, has been expelled from school because she is pregnant. They embark on a difficult journey of securing an abortion in face of the religious and patriarchal laws that condemn them. This film captures the resilience of women and the strong bond between mother and daughter, while touching upon themes such as sexuality, violence, and FGM. It was selected as the Chadian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. A more detailed summary can be found on The Guardian, and the full film can be accessed on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
#16 In between (2016)
Country featured: France
This is a film directed by Maysaloun Hamoud about three Palestinian women who live in an apartment in Tel Aviv in attempts to live a life of their own. Conflicted between traditional and modern culture, they each fight their own battle for independence and freedom. They are free spirits who embrace a partying lifestyle and explore sexual identities and relationships, but the repression of their conservative Muslim family members catch up with them. You can read more about this film on The Guardian and watch the full film on Amazon Prime.
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