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Sisters Murdered For “Honor” By: Stephen Brown
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 24, 2009

All of Canada was in shock last Thursday when police in Kingston, Ontario, announced they were charging the mother, father and 18-year-old son of an Afghan family with killing four people. While horrifying enough, the news that stunned Canadians the most was the identity of their innocent victims: their own three daughters and the Muslim husband’s first wife.

“The victims’ lives were cut short by their own family,” said Kingston police chief, Stephen Tanner, who described his police force as “greatly saddened” at the “needless and senseless loss of human life.” Charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder are father Mohammad Shafi, mother Tooba Mohammad Shafi and a son, Hamed Mohammed Shafi. The three accused were arrested last Wednesday morning when on their way to the airport in Montreal where they lived.

Zainab Shafi, 19, Sahar Shafi, 17, Geeti Shafi, 13, all sisters, and Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, were found dead three weeks ago in a black Nissan Sentra at the bottom of Canada’s famous Rideau Canal in three meters of water. Initially, the police were suspicious of their deaths but found no evidence of foul play.

“All shared the rights within our great country to live without fear, to enjoy great safety and security and to exercise freedom of choice and expression and yet had their lives cut short…,” said Tanner.
Rona Amir Mohammed was Mohammad Shafi’s first wife. Finding Rona Mohammed unable to have children, Shafi married Tooba Shafi Yahya, who bore him seven. Like other Muslims with more than one wife immigrating to a Western country where polygamy is illegal, Shafi probably had told Canadian immigration officials his first wife was a relative in order to gain entrance.

The family, which had arrived in Canada two years ago from Dubai, had stopped off at a motel near Kingston on the evening of the murders when returning to Montreal from a trip to Niagara Falls in the family’s two vehicles. The bodies were discovered the following morning.

The father filed a missing person’s report with police and then drove with his surviving wife and son back to Montreal in the family’s other vehicle. Shafi attempted to mislead the police by saying Zainab, an unlicensed driver, had probably taken the car without permission to practise her driving, as she had done previously, and his daughters were probably already in Montreal but he couldn’t contact them by phone.

But the police’s suspicions were raised when they saw that the death vehicle had to navigate several obstacles including, according to one report, a locked gate and stone moorings, before it wound up in the water. The police also later concluded Zanaib had no such history of taking the car behind her parents’ backs.

Shafi turned up his deceptive behaviour a whole notch with a fine bit of acting after being told his daughters were found dead. A photo of him and his wife tearfully talking to reporters about the loss of their children appeared on television and in newspapers across Canada.

But a Kingston newspaper, the Whig Standard, reported the police began to investigate the deaths as honor murders two weeks ago -- although they have refused to call them such. However, the police did confirm that they had received a letter from a relative, stating the killings were honor related.

The paper reported a sister of Rona Mohammed, Diba Masoomi, who lives in France, had sent an email both to the police and the Whig Standard saying her sister and Zinaib were being threatened “for social, cultural and family reasons.”

“She was really afraid,” said Masoomi in a later interview. “There were death threats.”

Masoomi was also the one who revealed her sister was actually Mohammed Shafi’s first wife, providing photos of their wedding in Kabul.

Police are remaining silent about a motive for the killings. A Montreal neighbour of the Shafis may, however, have provided a clue as to the reason for their deaths. The neighbour claims the oldest brother, Hamed, had told him before the Niagara Falls trip Zinaib had run away because she was dating someone against the family’s wishes. However, there are still many questions remaining to be answered in this very tragic case.

Western European social workers have long known that leaving the home, even for one night, can be a death sentence for some Muslim females. Having a boyfriend can also result in their being murdered. In North America’s other famous honor murder involving sisters, it is believed Amina, 18, and Sarah Said, 17, of Texas may have been murdered for having boyfriends. The families of such girls fear the female may have lost her virginity, which would disgrace the family and make her valueless on the marriage market. Only her death can restore the family’s “honor” in their community’s eyes.

Canada’s other famous honor murder victim, Aqsa Parvez, 16, slain by her father and brother in 2007, may also have been murdered for leaving the home. But Parvez also balked at wearing a hijab and was trying to lead a Western teenager’s lifestyle, which are also reasons, for which girls have been killed. In strict Muslim families, where male honor is dependant on the female’s behaviour, especially her sexual behaviour, no woman is allowed to establish an identity of her own outside the family, religion or culture.

Cases like the Shafi and Said sisters pose comprehension difficulties for North Americans, since honor murder is a heinous and horrific practice outside the experience of the Western world. But the West will have to get used to it. Honor murder is here to stay.

Stephen Brown is a contributing editor at Frontpagemag.com. He has a graduate degree in Russian and Eastern European history. Email him at alsolzh@hotmail.com.

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