Shafia verdict prompts debate about ‘honour’ killings

News Agencies – February 1, 2012

 

The news that Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia had each been found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder drew mixed reaction from across Canada. Experts in so-called honour killings — murders carried out to preserve family honour in the face of perceived disgrace — heralded the verdict as a step forward; a clear message that neither Canada’s courts nor its people will tolerate this type of crime.

But at least one Muslim women’s group says the way the Shafia case unfolded within and beyond the courtroom may have done more harm than good when it comes to public perception. “I’m frustrated and fed up with the kind of emphasis and time that’s been spent calling it an honour killing,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

Toronto Area Imams Condemn ‘Honour Killings’ following verdict

February 3, 2012

 

Amid the often disturbing anti-Muslim sentiment generated by the Shafia murder trial and its guilty verdicts, dozens of imams (religious leaders) will gather at a mosque in Mississauga Ontario to issue a fatwa, spelling out that so-called honour killings and violence toward women have nothing to do with the real teachings of Islam.

The three-months-long Shafia trial recently culminated in a total of 12 first-degree murder convictions for Afghan-Canadian businessman Mohammad Shafia, his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya and the couple’s eldest son, Hamed. It was freighted with evidence suggesting the three killers murdered four of their relatives because they believed the family “honour” had been stained.

The fatwa will be released Saturday afternoon at the Jamia Riyadhul Jannah Mosque on Campobello Road, where more than 30 imams and muftis (Muslim priests) including a number from the United States, will endorse it.

University of Toronto professor testifies on “honor killing” at Shafia trial

The Globe and Mail – December 6, 2011

According to Shahrzad Mojab, an Iranian-born University of Toronto professor of women’s studies who has lectured and written on the topic for many years, so-called “honour killings” are rooted in an ancient patriarchal need to control women’s sexuality, and sometimes immigrants from regions that embrace such a code cherish it more dearly than those who stay home. It is wrong to blame religion, Dr. Mojab testified, because honour killings predate all the great faiths. Worldwide, honour killings are on the rise, Dr. Mojab testified, but in North America they remain extremely rare. In 1989-2008, just 13 were identified in a 2009 article in the Middle East Quarterly cited by defence lawyer Patrick McCann, and only two took place in Canada.

Dr. Mojab was the final prosecution witness in the murder trial of Afghan-Canadian businessman Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, who turns 21 this month. The defence will soon begin its case and in a highly unusual move, its first witness is expected to be Mohammad Shafia.

More evidence heard in “honour killing” case in Ontario

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.

Father accused of honour killings called eldest daughter a ‘whore’

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.

“Honour Killing” trial begins in Kingston, Ontario

News Agencies – October 21, 2011

 

A car found at the bottom of an eastern Ontario canal with the bodies of three sisters and their father’s first wife suspended in the water inside seemed to trace a very deliberate path, a murder trial heard. In a case that has raised the issue of so-called honour killings, the Crown alleges the girls’ family couldn’t bear the “treachery” of their daughters having boyfriends, so they killed them and staged the scene to look like an accident.

Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, her husband, Mohammad Shafia, 58, and their son, Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, Shafia’s first wife, who lived with the family in a polygamous relationship.

An expert will be called to testify about so-called honour killings and how in extreme cases, killing can be seen in some cultures as a way to restore honour to a family. Disobedience by a female member of the family can cause shame and taint family honour, the expert is expected testify. The trial is expected to last between two and three months.