Waffa came to live in Bad Godesberg in Germany in 1979 at the age of three, fleeing her hometown in Northern Syria with her family after her father was tortured by the ruling Baath Party there. One of five siblings growing up outside Syria, her family were afraid of their children’s growing integration into German secular life. Her mother especially was convinced that by adapting to the Western lifestyle her daughters would loose their reputation within the Kurdish community. In contrast to her daughters, their mother was increasingly isolated. She had learnt little German when she moved from Syria and was left alone for much of the time by her husband who worked in a metal factory nearby. As the girls grew older and more independent, she repeatedly tried to increasingly exercise control over her children.
Waffa quarrelled with her parents. She was a good student with a promising life ahead of her and knew enough that the restrictions that she was placed under, the threats and the violence that she suffered at home were not right. In 1988 she turned to the youth welfare office for help, begging to be allowed to move into a youth facility. Instead of acting, the authorities tried to mediate discussions between her and her parents, a process that had already failed for Waffa. With her frightened elder sister translating, their father managed to convince the authorities that Waffa should be returned home, a betrayal that Waffa felt deeply as she returned to live with her violent parents.
As a result of this, her father took Waffa’s petition for welfare to be a personal affront. In an attempt to teach her a lesson he sent Waffa to stay with relatives in Turkey. Here however she was repeatedly raped by male family members. Waffa eventually managed to flee and found work on a cotton farm where she became pregnant by the son of the farmer there. Back in Germany, Waffa had a son. Still aged only 17 she was disinterested in her child leaving her elder sister Nourig to care for the baby.
That August cousins arrived from Syria in order to right what they perceived was a slight against their family honour. Using a beam meant for hanging meat, they hung the 17 year old and brought her elder sister Nourig into the room where they made her hold the rope they had used to kill her, telling her ‘this will also happen to you if you do not stick to the rules’. When Nourig came back into the room Waffa’s body was gone. Now, over a decade later her body has still not been found.
Her sister Nourig was too frightened to report the murder. Though she eventually managed to escape her family, the secret of her sister’s murder stayed with her. Even after completing a medical degree and marrying her German boyfriend, it took 9 years and sessions with a psychotherapist for her to reveal the awful and traumatic truth of her sister’s disappearance. Her father finally confessed to the crime, and taking the entire blame (which Nourig reported should have been shared by the cousins complicit in Waffa’s murder) was sentenced in 2008. In 2010 Nourig published an account of the murder entitled ‘I am witness to the honour murder of my sister’.