“We were raised to believe in resistance, persistence, and confrontation. That’s why I know I can handle anything.” So says one of the women in Quest for Honor, a searing and necessary documentary about the still-prevalent practice of honor killings in the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. Kurds number more than 26 million and are believed to be the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country. Despite much political and economic progress, honor killings are routinely cited as the major human-rights violation among Kurds.
Since 1991, statistics suggest that more than 12,000 women, mostly between 13 and 18, have met a gruesome death at the hands of relatives, usually the men of the family, who are convinced the victim has impugned the family’s honor. The film centers on cases taken up by the Women’s Media and Education Center in Sulaimaniyah, Kurdish Iraq. While the deaths themselves are shocking in their sheer brutality, perhaps more striking is the ease with which the men involved in the killings speak about their unforgiving attitudes toward the victims. Deeply disturbing, yet profoundly hopeful, in its belief that change in centuries-old attitudes is possible, Quest for Honor asks us to imagine a day when women everywhere can live in honor, and not fear for their lives.