Interview with Amy Logan: Author, Activist and Producer

Most people know her as a producer of The Price of Honor, a chilling documentary that placed murderer Yaser Said on the FBI’s The Top 10 Most Wanted List. A driving force behind this documentary, Amy Logan suffered domestic abuse for years, feeling guilt and shame until she realized that many women in her situation do not have a choice she had taken for granted. They cannot escape on their own because if they did, they would face extreme danger.

This realization was a wake-up call – it gave Amy strength to make a decision she had postponed for years. What emerged after she left her husband was Amy’s devotion to help free and seek justice for women who spurred her journey to freedom.

We reached out to Amy and asked her to share with you what she learned during the past 20 years she dedicated to the fight for the rights of girls who are suffering from honor violence.

What was your first encounter with honor violence?

It was probably the most powerful moment of my life. In 1994, I was working as a journalist on assignment in Israel and was visiting the Druze, an Arabic-speaking minority, when a local mentioned to me they commit “honor killings”. I hadn’t heard of the practice before, but I felt a chill from head to toe; I knew it was going to be important to me somehow. I learned that a woman who lives in such a culture may not be able to leave an abusive marriage because her family of origin will likely feel dishonored by her divorce and murder her to restore their honor. I felt a profound empathy for these women, for I was married to an abuser. But my reasons for not leaving was that it seemed complicated as we owned a company together and I was ashamed I had married him. Discovering millions of women don’t have the choice to escape is what finally gave me the courage to leave and save my own life. I couldn’t forget these women – I wanted every woman in the world to have that same choice I did. That was start of my life’s quest.

How have you continued over your career to address the issue?

After I moved far away, I began researching the origins of honor killing, hoping that insight would open a door to ending the practice. No one had published any research on this topic so it took me a decade to develop a theory, which I wove into a suspenseful novel, The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice, published in 2012. That led to speaking about my research at political and women’s human rights conferences from LA to Turkey. Then I was interviewed for and became a producer of the documentary, The Price of Honor, about the honor killings of Amina and Sarah Said in Texas. We got the FBI to put the father-murderer on the Top 10 Most Wanted List. Then I co-organized a screening in the US Capitol sponsored by three congresswomen and got the US Justice Department to release their first-ever report on honor killing in America at our event. AHA’s Executive Director Stephanie Baric spoke on the panel afterwards and brought forced marriage survivor Naila Amin to give testimony. It was a powerful event. Then I was invited to do a talk about my journey of healing myself from violence through my work on honor killing at TEDxSacramento. More recently I was interviewed by the LA Times and Huffington Post when “A Girl in the River” won the Oscar and began affecting Pakistan’s policy on honor killings. The US State Department just invited me to be a speaker on call about honor violence for embassies in the Honor Killing Zone so I hope I will have an opportunity to engage more foreign audiences soon.

What do you think about the threat of honor violence in the US?

Children and teens need age-appropriate training about what is a dangerous relationship and how to protect themselves, so I support passing the Teach Safe Relationships Act, a current piece of legislation before Congress.

What kind of global response would you suggest to address honor violence?

  1. Start by calling it what it is: a pandemic. We all need to demand government leaders across the globe end violence against women and girls in their own countries and put pressure on other countries to do the same.
  2. Secularize and optimize legal frameworks to maximize punishments for honor violence – then enforce those laws fully.
  3. Work to change the internalized attitudes and cultural norms that make honor violence acceptable. Other than Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I know of no indigenous activists working against honor killing who are really calling the patriarchy to task as the true source of the problem. To stop honor killing is to destroy the key mechanism they have to control females: it’s systemic terrorism they use on half of their own people. Studies have shown that social pain and physical pain use the same part of the brain so people literally hurt when they feel dishonored because they are humiliated and ostracized. This means we’re going to need long-term societal reprogramming.
  4. Educate women about their human rights and empower them economically.
  5. Grow leaders to speak out against honor violence. In each community, those who are anti-honor violence should be trained and supported to spread their ideas. The messages need to come from political and religious leaders too.
  6. Invest more in this cause. Of 170 private sector initiatives for women’s rights that the Association for Women in Development looked at recently, only 11% addressed violence against women and girls. This is because it takes longer to see results – but that is not a good reason to avoid addressing it. Quite the opposite.

While domestic and honor violence survivors’ stories of escape may be different, their drive to pay it forward often resembles each other’s in strength. Amy Logan’s 20 years of standing up for women’s rights is a testament to the power of that drive.

Take a moment today to help raise awareness about honor violence – share Amy’s story with friends and find a way to get involved with the movement.