Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.
Deeyah Khan was born on the 7th of August 1977 in Oslo, Norway. She is a Norwegian film director, music producer, composer and human rights defender of Punjabi-Pashtun descent.
She is a highly outspoken advocate of women's rights, freedom of expression and peace. Deeyah is a critically acclaimed music producer and winner of both Emmy and Peabody Awards for her documentary film directing and founding of the media company named Fuuse.
As the founder and CEO of production company Fuuse, her debut film as the director and producer of Banaz A Love Story in 2012, won a Peabody Award in 2013 and the Emmy Award for Best International Documentary Film that same year.
She also was also awarded the British Royal Television Society nomination for Best Current Affairs Documentary. The focus of Fuuse is to put women, people from minorities, and third culture kids at the heart of telling their own stories.
Fuuse aims to create intercultural dialogue and understanding by confronting the most complex and controversial topics through highlighting excluded perspectives and alternative views. One of the most recent Fuuse initiatives is Sister-Hood, a digital magazine and a series of live events drawing attention to the voices of women of Muslim heritage.
In 2015 she made a film focused on finding out why the jihadi message has such an alluring hold on young Westerners.
In Jihad: A Story of the Others - A documentary that looks at the intimate, personal reasons individuals are drawn into that world and how some find their way out of it. The film also shows that Westerners embracing jihad is nothing new and has been going on since the 1980s.
In Jihad: A Story of the Others, Deeyah meets one of the godfathers of the British and Western jihadi movement, who went abroad to fight, and who preached extremism to thousands of young Muslims across the UK and the West.
Deeyah's search for answers then takes her to the streets of modern Britain, meeting todays young Muslims, caught between extremism and the War on Terror.
She meets young British Muslims who feel angry and alienated, facing issues of discrimination, identity crises and rejection by both mainstream society and their own communities and families.
But, in surprising moments of insight and enlightenment, she also finds hope and some possible answers to the complex situation we are currently in.
"It's not about ideals as 90 percent of them never subscribe to the ideals it is other factors that are a draw. This is the new rock and roll; jihad is sexy. The kid who was not very good-looking now looks good holding a gun. He can get a bride now, he's powerful. The Isis gun is as much a penis extension as the stockbroker with his Ferrari".
- Alyas Karmani in speaking to the Observer
Her skills as a multi-disciplinary artist led her to make use of music and film as the language for her activism.
Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry, her experiences of living in between different cultures has greatly influenced her artistic vision.
The multi-award winning documentary she produced called Banaz: A Love Story chronicles the life and untimely death of Banaz Mahmod, a young British Kurdish woman killed in 2006 in London.
Her murder was a so-called honour killing attributed to her family.
Banaz Mahmoud was born in Iraq and moved to England with her family when she was only 10 years old. At the age of 17, her parents had arranged a marriage between her and a man 10 years older than her.
Within months the marriage turned violent and Banaz requested a divorce. In the coming months, Banaz fell in love with someone of her own choosing, something which was found to be shameful by her family.
Banaz was kept in confinement by her family, beaten, and forbidden to see her lover. She escaped and sought help from authorities, to no avail. She wrote a letter to police, detailing her situation and stating that her father should be investigated if anything were to happen to her.
In January of 2006, Banaz was killed by family members, in a plot which was initiated by her father. In total, Banaz went to the police 5 times before her death, but did not get the help she needed. Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode of the Metropolitan Police led the investigation to recover the body of Banaz and her killers, securing the first ever extradition from Iraq to Britain.
"If their own blood relatives discarded, betrayed, forgot and harmed them, then they are our children, our sisters our mothers that we will mourn, we will remember, we will honour their memory and we will not forget!"
- Deeyah's response to Safeworld about her reason for making the film.
She has also received several awards for her work supporting freedom of expression, human rights and peace, including the Ossietzky prize by Norwegian PEN and the University of Oslo's Human Rights Award.
She also received the 2016 Peer Gynt Prize from the Parliament of Norway. The focus of her work and access to voices that are often overlooked and misunderstood has led to increasing demand as a speaker at international human rights events and platforms including the United Nations.
Her film Islam's Non Believers is a 2016 documentary which documents the lives and experiences of ex-Muslims who have left Islam to become atheists, and who often face discrimination, harassment, ostracism and violence for leaving Islam, both in the UK and abroad. The documentary was first shown on the ITV's current affairs series Exposure.
Islam's Non Believers explores the experiences of ex-Muslims worldwide through following the work of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a support and campaigning group founded by Iranian born human rights activist Maryam Namazie.
The film portrays dangers and difficulties faced by people who have renounced Islam. Interviewees talk about the risks of suicide and self-harm, and the experiences of physical and psychological abuse from family members. Many are terrified of being shunned or abused if their beliefs were to become known to their families and communities. The film shows that many young British ex-Muslims hide their true beliefs, running huge risks if they 'come out' as atheists within their communities.
The documentary also states that the danger for ex-Muslims who live in Islamic countries can be higher. Apostasy from Islam carries the death penalty in many countries. Atheists may face persecution by their own governments, and the risk of violence at the hands of extremist gangs.
On International Women's Day Emmy award winning filmmaker and music producer Deeyah Khan shared her struggles and triumphs as a Pakistani Afghan woman from Norway who is on a quest to help women worldwide express their artistic freedom.
Deeyah Khan's life started in Norway.
"My father grew up with his father and stepmother in Pakistan, before moving to Oslo, Norway in the 1960s. My grandfather was well-known and respected as one of the founders of the Norwegian Muslim community, revered as a deeply religious and traditional man and uninterested in any world beyond his own traditions. His unwavering beliefs pushed my father to an opposite position: radical, liberal, open-minded; interested in philosophy, art, poetry and politics."
"He was determined to raise his children within these expansive, deeply humanist principles."
"My mother was a quieter kind of rebel."
"For my grandfather, the only book worth reading was the Qur’an, but my father loved all kinds of books and music: cabinets bulged with vinyl LP's, bookshelves were crammed with works as diverse as histories of colonialism and the ancient civilizations of the Indus Valley, mythology, theatre and innumerable collections of Urdu poetry."
"From cramped student accommodation to a semi-detached house, this precious resource of human knowledge traveled with the family, growing ever larger. And this was not the only resource my father collected: our house was a gathering place for intellectuals and dissidents, often sharing their criticisms of General Zia a-Haq and his Islamization project for Pakistan in the 1980's."
"For women this meant that the veil and the four walls of their homes were considered vital to the sanctity of the family and society at large. Conversations and cigarette smoke drifted in the air over countless cups of strong tea; my brother and I played on the carpet while serious matters of world politics, art and culture were debated above our heads."
"The strength of the Pakistani feminists I encountered in these gatherings inspired me: they seemed to have an exuberance and enthusiasm for life that was hard to find amongst other women within the communities."
"My mother was a quieter kind of rebel. An Afghan Pashtun, she left home at the age of 17 after disagreements with her parents about an arranged marriage. In 1976, while visiting her sister who was working in Pakistan, she met my father. Eventually, she came back to Norway with him, where she worked in a kindergarten and other schools, as well as other professions."
"While as a child desperate to fit in with my blonde classmates, I dreamed of a mother who could cook pancakes - our kitchen had a permanent air of savory frying onions and fragrant garam masala: homey aromas that I would miss painfully later in life.
My mother was often busy making sandwiches for the immigrant children she taught, who otherwise might have gone hungry. She was an ocean of love, not just for us, but for everyone who needed it: she helped in women's shelters, often with women who had been rejected by their own families. As a teacher, and as an interpreter, she helped people deal with their problems, unsparingly generous with her time and attention."
"It was through her I first learned of women who were forced into marriages, who were beaten, and who kept their silence in the name of family 'honour'."
"To be human is to be frail, but sometimes falling apart is the first step to rebuilding yourself."
"My family was different; our parents own struggles for freedom had given us a measure of liberty, but still, in extended family and community gatherings, there was a palpable sense of us and them, West and East: two worlds in collision, and I was crushed between them."
"In those days, there were few ethnic minorities in Norway. I was called Paki and Black Bitch in the streets of Oslo, and in school the friendships I found were with other outcasts. Although a quiet student, if one of my friends were threatened, I defended them with all my strength. One of the closest and most precious friendships was, and remains, and will always be, the one I share with my brother Adil, who is now a well-known actor. Even today, we share our frustrations and hopes in the same way as we used to, back in that small room in Oslo."
"It was in music I found my real identity, even though it was not at first, my own choice."
"My father, despite his liberal politics, demanded excellence from his children. When I was just seven years old, he overheard me singing to myself outside our Oslo home. The next day, he took me by the hand, collected all of my Barbie dolls and other toys in a rubbish bag and threw them out, marking the end of childhood and the beginning of my apprenticeship to music."
"After this unceremonious farewell, they were replaced with a small electronic keyboard and music lessons, which I was expected to combine with educational success."
Remarkable TEDx talk given by Deeyah Khan
What We Donâ€™t Know About Europeâ€™s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care
2016: Deeyah Khan appointed Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO for artistic freedom and creativity. She is the not just the first ever Norwegian who has been appointed as a goodwill ambassador for UNESCO, but also the first ever goodwill ambassador for artistic freedom and creativity.
2016: Deeyah Khan received Telenor Culture Award for her artistic achievements which touch on some of the most important themes of our own times, like women`s rights, freedom of expression and its fundamental values.
2016: Deeyah Khan received Peer Gynt Prize which is given to individuals or institutions who have highlighted Norway internationally.
2016: Deeyah Khan was Awarded Gunnar Sønstebys Memorial Fund, which was established in 2015, in the memory of Gunnar Sønsteby. The purpose of this award is to honour those individuals or organisations who have emerged as a courageous defender of the fundamental values of democracy and helped to ensure the country's freedom and independence.
2015: Deeyah was awarded the Norwegian Ministry of Arts & Culture Human Rights Award for the Fuuse documentary Jihad.
2015: Deeyah was awarded the University of Oslo's Human Rights Award for being a champion of women's rights and freedom of expression through her art and activism.
2015: Deeyah was selected as a Ford Foundation Visiting Fellow for their program The Art Of Change.
2015: Deeyah was selected as Young Global Leader in the field of the arts.
2015: Deeyah was awarded Plan Jentepris (Girls award which is held on every 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child from its Norwegian branch.
2013: Deeyah was shortlisted for the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award.
2013: Bergen International Film Festival
2013: Deeyah received an Emmy Award for Best International Current Affairs Film for her film about Banaz.
2013: Deeyah received a Peabody Award for her film about Banaz Mahmod.
2012: Deeyah was awarded the Ossietzky Prize which is Norwegian PENÂ´s prize for outstanding achievements within the field of freedom of expression
2009: Deeyah was awarded the international Freedom to Create Prize alongside Cont Mhlanga, The Zimbabwean playwright and Belarus Free Theatre for Sisterhood.
2006: one of Khan's music videos was used as part of an art exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in which leading national and international theorists, critics and artists addressed topical concerns in contemporary visual culture.
1996:The Scheiblers Legat presented to Khan an Honor Award for being a cultural bridge, for creating understanding and tolerance through her musical and artistic contributions.
Documentary about the brutal honor killing of Banaz Mahmod who was murdered by her own Kurdish family with the complicity and assistance of a large section of her own community. The reason: She left her husband from an arranged marraige who beat her and wanted to be with a man who loved her and treated well.
The international compilation album produced by Deeyah titled Listen to the Banned featuring banned and censored musical artists from The Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Sisterhood was founded by Deeyah to help empower young Muslim women by giving them a platform to express their creativity through music and other art forms.
Deeyah founded Memini in early 2011 as a digital memorial for the victims of honour killings worldwide. Memini means remembrance in Latin and it features the stories of young women around the world who have lost their life in the name of family and community honour. Memini aims to include as many stories as possible of these tragic cases to acknowledge what has happened to these women by raising awareness about the extent of the problem of honour killings.
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