News Agencies – November 23, 2011
More than a year before she and her two sisters drowned in a mysterious incident that is now the focus of a murder trial, a teenage student told her Montreal high school vice-principal that she had attempted suicide because her situation at home was intolerable, the jury was told. The 16-year-old listed an array of reasons for her despair and decision to swallow a heavy dose of sedative pills: verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her older brother Hamed; her parents’ insistence that she wear a hijab, the Muslim head scarf; isolation from other family members; pressure to quit school.
A social worker from the provincial Youth Protection Agency was therefore summoned to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry school in the Montreal borough of St. Leonard, Ms. Fortin told the trial, as were Sahar’s parents, who showed up “very angry.”
On trial are Kabul-born Afghan-Canadian businessman Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their eldest son, Hamed, 20. Each is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The charges were laid in July, 2009, three weeks after the bodies of Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia, aged 19, 17 and 13, respectively, were discovered in a car at the bottom of a waterway lock on the Rideau Canal, just east of Kingston. The cause of death was drowning, autopsies showed, but where and how they perished has not been established.
News Agencies – November 14, 2011
In the days leading up to the July 2009 arrest of an Afghan-Canadian businessman and his wife and son, all accused of jointly murdering four family members, the man’s conscience was clear because the victims had violated every decent principle, he said in wiretapped conversations.
Mr. Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their 20-year-old son, Hamed Shafia, each face four counts of first-degree murder in the drowning deaths of the couple’s three teenaged daughters – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13 – and Rona Amir Mohammad, Mr. Shafia’s 53-year-old first wife, in a clandestine polygamous marriage. Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a lock on the Rideau Canal, just east of Kingston, as the 10-member family returned to their Montreal home from a short vacation in Niagara Falls.
The core of the prosecution case is that the multiple deaths were a so-called “honour killing,” inflicted in a bid to salvage the family’s “honour,” marred by the rebellious, independent-minded conduct of the three Shafia sisters, in particular the dating habits of the oldest two.
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.”