Banaz Mahmod was executed for the crime of love. Strangled to death at 20 years of age and stuffed in a suitcase, Mahmod was the subject of an "honor killing". This classification of murder is committed by members of the victim's own family in response to an act of perceived shame of dishonor. The feature-length documentary Banaz: A Love Story tells the harrowing story of her short life and brutal murder at the hands of those who should have cared for her the most.
At the age of ten, Mahmod moved with her family from northern Iraq to Britain. Seven years later, she wed a significantly older man in an arranged marriage. When that relationship turned threatening and violent, she took steps to end the marriage, and fell in love with a man of her own choosing in the process. Given the restrictive nature of her heritage, particularly as it pertains to even the most basic of women's rights, these acts were looked upon by several members of her family as severe offenses worthy of the ultimate punishment.
The film paints a horrific, yet deeply sensitive and human portrait of a woman full of promise, but long victimized by a culture designed to oppress her. The most devastating insights come from an older sister who testified against her own family during the trial. Insisting upon remaining nameless, living in hiding, and masked behind a burka out of fear for her own life, she recounts a stunningly beautiful woman whose greatest sin was a desire to transcend the limitations set upon her.
These limitations were inflicted early upon Mahmod, the sister recounts, as she and each of her female siblings were forced to suffer genital mutilation at the hands of their own family from an early age. She continued to suffer indifference from those who should have protected her in the weeks prior to her demise, as she sought counsel from the police on five different occasions and was only met with skepticism and inaction each time.
The winner of multiple prestigious awards, Banaz: A Love Story is justifiably difficult to watch at times, but i'’s a personal portrait that demands attention and empathy from all.