Kohistan murders: Film highlights role of jirgas in honour killings

Feature-length documentary falls short of demystifying contentious issues surrounding the case

Maryam Usman October 27, 2016
Screen shots from the documentary on the killing of five women in Kohistan on jirga’s order. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: A new documentary film, based on the mobile video of the five girls in Kohistan that presumably led to their murder, highlighted the role a local jirga played in their honour killing but fell short of demystifying some of the most contentious issues surrounding this particular case.

The 90-minute film, titled ‘Unveiled: The Kohistan Video Scandal’, was screened at the National Press Club on Thursday. It chronicles the complex case of the murder of the five girls.

It presents the story primarily through the eyes of the main victim Afzal Kohistani, as he struggles for justice; efforts of human rights defenders including Farzana Bari, who strove to take this case to its logical end and an investigative journalist, Haseeb Khawaja, who endeavoured to expose the cover-ups and the jirga’s misogynistic approach.

It also features rights activists Fouzia Saeed, former parliamentarian Bushra Gohar and some lawyers from the National Commission on the Status of Women.

The film portrays views of the local administration as well as members of the Jirga which had apparently ordered their murder, exposing the inhuman tradition of honour killings in the far-flung district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The film was produced by the Digital Warriors Productions of Canada in cooperation with the Canada-based Super Channel and Java Films of France.

The film’s director, Brishkay Ahad, in a written statement, said that the five girls murdered in the case – Amina, Begum Jan, Shaheen, Bazigah and Shireen “deserve the same rights you all have and that you all deserve, please don’t just associate them with ideas of village life and tribal customs”.

“I hope this film reveals the larger story to the public.”

Giving an overview of the case before the screening, Khawaja said that the film was part of a public awareness campaign over the role of jirgas in honour killings.

The film is set to be released in various countries and the Canadian filmmakers will also screen the film in several international film festivals.

“We want to show the world that Pakistan is not a place where only bad people live; this country is full of peaceful and progressive people, who stand against inhuman activities and are performing their responsibilities to protect and promote humanity,” said the film’s producer Elizabeth Sanchez in a message which was read out on the occasion.

Addressing the controversy of whether all the girls who had been featured in the original viral video, Kohistani maintained that all of them had been killed and that the girls who were presented before the commission were not the same.

Moreover, he underlined that illitracy and backwardness in the district still perpetuates inhuman traditions. Two of Kohistani’s brothers - Gul Nasar and Bin Nasir brothers –also feature in the video that went viral. Three of his brothers were allegedly murdered in this connection.

The documentary was screened just days after the case was reopened by the Supreme Court.

According to the documentary, both Nasar and Nasir are not only alive, but have also gotten married and have children, but the girls’ fates remain a mystery.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2016.


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