Monday, February 20, 2012

The Shafia Family: Honour Killing on Trial

I have been following the news on this tragedy since the story first broke in 2009. The bodies of 19 year old Zainab, 17 year old Sahar, 13 year old Geeti, and 50 year old "Aunt" Rona Shafia were found in a submerged vehicle in the Rideau Canal.

Even before any arrests were made in connection with the drowning deaths of the Shafia women, the grisly discovery made at Kingston Mills Locks was viewed as highly suspect in the community. Anyone who is familiar with the area would know that it would have been very difficult for a vehicle to 'accidentally' enter the water where it was found. Furthermore, there were no markings on the nearby pavement to indicate that any attempt had been made by the driver of the vehicle to stop or swerve before it plummeted into the water. Police investigators came upon their first real clue when they discovered broken pieces from another car at the scene, suggesting that the black Nissan the women were found dead inside had been pushed into the water by another vehicle. The other vehicle in question also belonged to the Shafia family.

It has been revealed that Hamed Shafia returned to Montreal, where the family lived, in the early hours of June 30 and reported to police that his vehicle had been damaged in an accident. He then made the 250 km drive back to Kingston, where he and his parents, Hamed and Tooba, later reported the women missing at the Kingston Police Headquarters. The Shafias claimed that their eldest daughter, Zainab, had asked for the keys to the Nissan after they had all checked in to a hotel for the night. Zainab drove off with her two sisters and "Aunt" Rona (who was actually Mohammad Shafia's first wife), and hadn't been seen since. 

Police suspected that the Shafia's weren't telling the entire story, and placed the family under surveillance; wire taps were installed in the family's home in Montreal, as well as inside their vehicle. A number of incriminating statements were recorded, which ultimately led investigators to believe that the four dead women were victims of honour killing: a tribal custom practiced in some regions in which the victims are perceived to have brought shame to their family. 

Mohammad Shafia:
Be I dead or alive, nothing in the world is above honour.
Mohammad Shafia (speaking about his deceased daughters; Zainab, in particular):
God's curse on them for generation! May the Devil shit on their graves! Is that what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?
Mohammad Shafia (speaking about his deceased daughters):
It was all treason, they committed treason from beginning to end. They betrayed humankind, they betrayed Islam, they betrayed our religion and creed, they betrayed our tradition, they betrayed everything.

The Shafia family is originally from Afghanistan, where the practice of honour killing is not uncommon. Mohammad, Tooba, and Hamed are currently being tried on four counts of first degree murder. Their case has attracted international media attention, as public awareness (especially in the West) about honour killings has been growing since the United Nations brought a resolution to end honour killings and other honour-related crimes. There is currently no reliable estimates for the rate at which honour killings occur.


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Outside Links

Kingston Whig Standard Staff Reporter Rob Tripp maintains this highly informative crime blog, and I've spent countless hours perusing his wares. If you're interested in keeping up with the Shafia Family trial, you'll definitely want to bookmark this blog, as it contains information you won't find anywhere else. Updated frequently!

Thoughtful and informative article by one of my favourite journalists, Christie Blatchford. Blatchford also did some amazing work on the Karla Homolka/Paul Bernardo trials.

A shocking study by Phyllis Chesler