Alleged “Honor Killing” of Four Afghan-Canadian Women from Montreal

Police identified 19-year-old Zainab Shafia, 17-year-old Sahar Shafia and 13-year-old Geeti Shafia as the sisters who were found in the vehicle submerged in the Rideau Canal near Kingston, Ontario. The body of their aunt, Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, was also retrieved from the vehicle. All four victims were from St-Leonard, a borough in Montreal.

Ms. Yahya, her 56-year-old husband Mohammad Shafia and their 18-year-old son, Hamed, are charged with four counts each of first-degree murder and four of conspiracy to commit murder in the June 30 deaths of their daughters and sisters and Mr. Shafia’s first wife, Rona Mohammad, whom he had been passing off for decades as his “cousin.”

One of the teenage girls allegedly killed by members of her Afghan-born family had been dating a Pakistani boy in Montreal against her parents’ wishes, according to a man and woman who say they are siblings of one of the victims. This allegation has spurred interpretations that the incident may be related to “honor” killings. The head of the Canadian branch of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) told news agencies that the story was unrelated to Islam. Other journalists have pointed to the dozen women who have died similarly in the last decade. Amin Muhammad, a psychiatrist who studies honour killings at Memorial University claims, “There are a number of organizations which don’t accept the idea of honor killing; they say it’s a Western-propagated myth by the media, but it’s not true,” he says. “Honor killing is there, and we should acknowledge it, and Canada should take it seriously.”