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Dhipa Lee Blog

Dhipa Lee, Author of the book 'Written' delves into the background behind Honour Killings and why they are committed.

Honour Killings and why Banaz's Story on ITV Drama 'Honour' is a story we must not forget.

Honour Banaz Keeley

ITV’s Drama ‘ Honour’ Starring Keeley Hawes, Right Picture of the real Banaz Mahmod

The new ITV Drama Honour, starring Keeley Hawes, who plays DCI Caroline Goode, is based on the real-life story of 20-year-old Banaz Mahmod, a young girl murdered and raped by her family members because she fell in love with a young man, instead of conforming to her family’s expectations of arranged marriage. 

The drama explores the mystery behind her disappearance, how, on many counts, Banaz had reported to the police that she was in danger, and the unfolding of the guilt-ridden police inquiry that uncovered her harrowing murder.

Whilst the drama focuses on the facts of her case and the inquiry, the background to such cases cannot be underestimated or forgotten. 

Life in these communities

As a young girl myself growing up in such families and communities, it was a precarious journey of fear and lies. You faced each day being swept by an undercurrent of gossip, backstabbing and viral misinformation that was brutally ignited by a tightknit web of family members and community who were carefully assessing every move you made.

Parents often kept their daughters shielded from gossip or hearsay by making sure they wore appropriate clothing, had their heads covered, did not speak out of turn, and kept quiet in the presence of male guests. Women were often asked to vacate rooms where men were present. For a woman, a family’s honour was in jeopardy at every move she made and her actions heavily scrutinised as her fault should anything be said against her.

A woman in these communities held the honour of her family and her community so that, one day, she could be married into a respectable family. Not only did her future depend on it, but her name being tarnished in any way made the difference between whether a community member associated with her family or not, how her family ranked in the community, and whether her siblings could be married off easily because of her name. Therefore, from the day she is born, it is her parents’ duty and lifelong ambition to see to it that she maintains this honour.

Face, Shame, honour defines one’s ranking and social standing and is deep-rooted into the psyche of everyone in the community, a mindset cultivated from birth in each child and family member. From the father, to the mother, to the sister to the brother and to the far reaches of the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, the pressure to preserve one’s face comes at a costly price.   

"Honour killings are justified by perpetrators as serving the 'Greater Good' of the family and community."


These communities justify such actions as ‘the right thing to do.’ ‘To preserve honour and prevent further harm to others.’ Such brutality exists to deter anyone else from entertaining free thought, will, love and desire.  Their actions are justified as serving the ‘Greater Good’ of the family and community.

The future for women

National Helplines

Are you concerned about an individual or are experiencing abuse yourself?

Karma Nirvana’s UK Helpline is available on 0800 5999 247 from Monday to Friday: 9am – 5pm and email is info@karmanirvana.org.uk

If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.


So, what hope do these women have of navigating such highly pressurised, malicious, and misogynistic territories? The real questions we should be asking are how can we cultivate better mindsets? How can we break the spell or illusion these communities are under, which allows crimes such as forced marriage, rape, domestic violence and murder to continue on, silently justified? By breaking down these barriers, we can prevent the fear and misery that has crippled the hearts and minds of all these people who subscribe to this ideology.


According to the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network, 12 people die each year from Honour Based Violence compared to the global figure of more than 5,000.

It is stories like this that can help us look at ourselves; it reflects on what we are and who we have become. It is stories like this that question the root of all evil. Banaz’s story does not just speak to a deeply flawed police investigation. It speaks to deeply flawed mindsets, between good and evil and the injustices that have led to the fates of many women.