Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


Editor's Note: Hatun Aynur Sürücü is pronounced Ha-TOON Ah-NOOR Sa-ROO-Chu.

Photos: Filmmaker David Gould visits the grave of Hatun Aynur Sürücü, who was killed by her brother Feb. 7, 2005. Her death was labeled an "honor killing." Credit: Mark Fullenkamp

Sürücü and her son, Can. (Still image from "Two Sides of the Moon.")

April 6, 2011

UICHR to host premiere of documentary on 'honor killing' by UI's David Gould

Hatun Aynur Sürücü and her youngest brother, Ayhan, were close. But somehow, on Feb. 7, 2005, he felt compelled to murder his sister by shooting her three times in the head.

Her death was labeled an "honor killing," which occurs when the perpetrator murders a family member--usually a woman--based on the belief that she has brought shame to the family, perhaps through clothing choices, terminating a marriage or engaging in sexual acts deemed inappropriate.

"Two Sides of the Moon," a documentary directed by University of Iowa faculty member David Gould, explores the divided life and shocking death of the 23-year-old woman of Kurdish descent, who lived in Berlin when she was killed by her brother. The UI Center for Human Rights (UICHR) will host the film's premiere at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 11 in the Illinois Room of the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU).

A pre-screening reception is set for 5:30 p.m. in the IMU's Penn State Room. The film screening will be followed by a discussion with Gould and University of Oslo, Norway social anthropologist Unni Wikan. The events are free and open to the public. Donations to the Kenneth J. Cmiel Funded Human Rights Internship Program will be accepted.

Sürücü suffered from a conflict typical to many young Muslim women born in Germany. She was torn between the wish to live as a free, independent Western woman, and the desire to be close to her conservative Muslim family.

For Sürücü, the concept of being Turkish and German at the same time worked. She had male and female German friends. She lived independently. She wore make-up and jewelry. She enjoyed dancing at discos. She even changed her name to "Aynur" (Moonbeam) to reflect her new life.

At the same time, she celebrated Muslim holidays, did not eat pork, and had friends in the Turkish community. She even wore a necklace, hidden under her clothes, with words from the Koran. This amulet was meant to protect her and keep evil away, but in the end it failed.

After 30 years in Germany, Sürücü's parents were still living and thinking much like people decades ago in their Eastern Anatolian village. Like many in the Kurdish-Turkish community of Berlin, they were unable to accept her new lifestyle.

"In Hatun's story, I saw a woman caught between two cultures," Gould said. "Ironically, had she broken free from her family, I believe she would have lived. Had she not questioned her family and culture, she likely would have been kept safe – though oppressed. It was having a foot in both worlds that sealed her fate."

Integrated throughout Sürücü's story are interviews with Nobel Peace Prize winners Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama. 

In addition to his work as a documentary filmmaker, Gould is an academic coordinator for the Interdepartmental Studies Program and a lecturer in the Health and Human Physiology Department, both in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS).

He was approached four years ago by Chivy Sok, the former deputy director of the UICHR in International Programs, to produce a documentary on honor crimes.

"Chivy, a former child laborer from the 'Killing Fields' of Cambodia, impressed upon me the extent of these abuses, and the lack of attention they receive," Gould said. "I began writing women's rights groups asking for specific stories. The tragic tale of Hatun Aynur Sürücü's honor killing was one of the first to arrive, and it touched me immediately. Our hope is that this film makes an impact on the issue of violence against women. "

The film crew includes several UI-affiliated individuals: Kevin Kelley, director in the UI Center for Media Production, is an associate producer and editor; Judy Leigh-Johnson, visiting assistant professor in the Theatre Arts Department, is the narrator; Mark Fullenkamp, director of Web services in CLAS, is the still photographer and Web designer; James McPherson, professor in the UI Writers' Workshop, is the story consultant; and alumnus Joe Mrkonich is an associate producer and editor. 

For more information on the film, visit

For additional details on the events, e-mail or call 319-335-3900.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: David Gould, CLAS, 319-384-3529 (office), 319-331-2936 (cell),; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,