Documentary Unravels Honor Killings of American Sisters

By Suzanne Mahadeo

The Price of Honor is a documentary that shares the story of Amina and Sarah Said, two teenage sisters from Texas who were killed by their father. It's a film that starts off tragically and ends with the sound of your own heart snapping in your chest. Before the opening credits even begin, you hear the haunting 911 call that Sarah made to the Irving, Texas police department on the day she and her sister were murdered in their father's taxi cab. That recording will stay with you long after you finish the film.
American teenagers, Amina and Sarah Said
The Said sisters' story has touched thousands of people and the documentary will undoubtedly affect many more. It unravels the personalized story of two typical American teenagers. Footage used from old home videos shows them jumping on trampolines, taking up an after-school job as a cashier, and practicing Tae Kwon Do in a suburban strip mall dojo. Seemingly innocuous footage until you realize that the girls didn't know they were being filmed. The person lurking behind windows holding the camera was their father, Yaser Said, the man responsible for their deaths. He is still wanted by the FBI more than six years after he murdered his daughters in what has been deemed an honor killing.

Yaser Said murdered his two daughters near Dallas and is still wanted by the FBI.
I asked Amy Logan, the Consulting Producer of The Price of Honor, about the difference between domestic violence and honor killing.
"With 800+ million women and girls living under the honor code, honor violence is not only a global problem, it’s a pandemic that global leaders are failing miserably to address for the crisis that it is," she said in an email. "Domestic violence is usually defined as taking place between intimate partners, whereas honor violence mostly occurs between a female and her blood relatives. Both kinds of violence are motivated by control issues but honor violence occurs because the female is actually considered property of the male blood relative whose honor is at stake if she steps out of line. And with honor violence, the family and community often support the violence, even coercing it with threats of ostracism."
So how did Amina and Sarah "step out of line" in their father's ignoble eyes? They fell in love with boys their father did not approve of. 

Joseph Moreno and Amina Said had young love that ended too soon.
Amina dared to exert her human spirit and fell in love with Joseph, a boy from her martial arts class. When Amina and Sarah were not being sexually abused by their father, they daydreamed of their future. Amina and Joseph would pass sweet notes to each other, chat on the phone, and even held hands for an entire day at Six Flags. 

In the documentary, Joseph sorrowfully reminisces about a young love that ended with gunshots and wounds that would never heal. Filmmaker Neena Nejad said that one of the important reasons for making the film was because, "I felt like it gave people like Joseph and Ruth [his mother, who was also very close to Amina] some sense of closure.” (You can also read this touching article by Joseph called "My Teenage Sweetheart Was Killed To Preserve Her Family's 'Honor'" in Business Insider.)

Visiting Amina Said's tragic grave site.
Even as much as those involved with making this film wanted to bring Amina and Sarah's story to the public, there were terrifying implications that came along with seeking justice for the girls. Filmmaker Xoel Pamos said, "Something that really shocked me while trying to reach out to several friends of the girls was the fact that they wouldn't talk to us because they were scared. I think these people think, 'if Yaser was capable of killing his daughters, what would he do to us who are totally unrelated?' We had one very ugly episode involving threats coming directly from Yaser's family when we approached them to explain their side of the story. We decided to make those interactions public because that's the best way to protect all of us. Those who are featured in the film were offered to blackout their faces but nobody wanted to do so. They knew the risks by coming forward and talking, but telling Amina and Sarah's story was more important." 

Amina Said
Neena said that "telling the story of Amina and Sarah outweighed the risks! I feel that people that make death threats are weak and scared because you are opposing their belief system and they react in this way to gain some sort of self worthso I don't pay much mind to them."

Perhaps we should follow Neena's lead, because fear of speaking out against honor killings is implicit in why the practice has gone unchallenged to this day. "The very reason that honor violence has gone on unabated since 5000 BC," said Amy Logan, "is because of this conspiracy of silence around it. If somebody—or a lot of somebodies—doesn't speak up, it will only continue and probably grow. We decided to break the silence around this atrocity and start calling it exactly what it is: community-sanctioned terrorism against half a culture’s population (female) to reinforce the system of male power and privilege." 

This documentary should serve as a start to a very important conversation. It's currently being screened at film festivals around the country before it can be distributed online or in theaters. Add The Price of Honor to your Facebook feed to keep up to date or go to the film's website to find out about future screenings.

Sarah Said
"We've been lucky, as we have encountered wonderful people along the way who always supported our work, including Muslim and non-Muslim individuals, and we are thankful to those people," said Xoel Pamos.

And what can you do? Amy Logan shares,
"We hope that after watching our film, people will feel tremendous empathy for women and girls living under the honor code—there are 800 million+ of them! We hope they will tell many others about the film (#CatchYaserNow), donate to the Catch Yaser Said Campaign Fund, and join our mailing list to stay updated on the case."
"It’s important for people to see The Price of Honor," Amy said, "so that they can really understand an atrocity that is happening right in our own back yards in the USA. If we bury our heads in the sand, we cannot prevent more of these crimes."