Honour killing: Afghan family drowned three teenage sisters
'May the devil shit on their grave' father was caught saying after pushing girls' car into Canadian canal
A WEALTHY Afghan couple living in Montreal have been found guilty of murdering their three daughters and another woman in one of the most shocking cases of an honour killing ever seen in the West. The girls had indulged in what their father thought was outrageous behaviour - seeing non-Muslim boys, texting and wearing western clothes.
The guilty couple are Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, who had come to Canada in 2007 after making their fortune in property in Pakistan and Dubai. Tried and convicted alongside them was their eldest son Hamed, 20.
Sentencing all three to life imprisonment, the judge in Kingston, Ontario said they had "a completely twisted concept of honour ... that has no place in a civilised society".
The guilty verdicts were handed down on Sunday afternoon by a jury who been sequestered in a motel over the weekend at the end of a gruelling court case that began back in October. During the hearing, they were played a wiretap of Mohammad Shafia saying in his native Afghan Persian tongue: "May the devil shit on their grave. This is what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?"
The killing took place in June 2009 when the Shafia family were returning to Montreal in two cars from a holiday at Niagara Falls on the Canada/US border. On the way home, they stayed the night in Kingston.
The next day, the bodies of Zainab Shafia, 19, Sahar Shafia, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, were found dead in a sunken Nissan car fished out of the Rideau Canal. Also found dead in the car was 52-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad, whom the girls called their "auntie" but who, it was revealed in court, was actually their father's first, infertile wife in a secretly polygamous marriage.
In tearful interviews at the time, the parents said the girls must have taken the Nissan out on a late-night joyride and died when the car somehow plunged into the open canal. But as the black Nissan was hauled from the water, and the four bodies were fished out, police began to suspect foul play.
For a start, several pieces of headlights from the parents' silver Lexus SUV were found near the canal, suggesting it had been used to ram the Nissan over the side of the canal. Also, there was no sign of the girls having tried to escape the car, even though the driver's window was rolled down.
Suspicious, the police had the family's Lexus bugged. The hours of wiretapped conversations that unfolded in the days after the tragedy became some of the crown's strongest evidence. "I say to myself you did well," Mohammad Shafia is heard saying in one the chilling excerpts played to the court. "Would they come back to life 100 times you should do the same again."
Prosecuting, Laurie Lacelle told the court in closing arguments: "The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable. You have all the answers to the questions that matter. This was not an accident. It was murder."
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women had said in a statement issued at the start of the trial: "The man admitted himself that he committed the heinous act to protect the honour of his family. His actions are based on his misogynist and patriarchal views and the manifestations of violence against women and girls that permeate societies worldwide. Canada is not immune to this reality."
Neither is Europe. Recent immigrants to Europe punishing their rebellious, westernised daughters is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence. In 2006, Banaz Mahmod, 20, an Iraqi Kurd from south London, was strangled by her father, uncle and two cousins. That same year, Italians were shocked when Hina Saleem 20, was stabbed to death by her father, uncle and two husbands of her sisters, who disapproved of her living with her Italian boyfriend.
A similar case unfolded in Belgium in 2011, when four Pakistani family members were found guilty of killing their daughter and sibling, Sadia Sheikh. And in February of 2011, Sihk Gurmeet Singh Ubhi was found guilty by Leicester crown court of murdering his 24-year-old daughter Amrit Kaur Ubhi in 2010 because she was "too westernised," and was dating a British soldier who had served in Afghanistan.
As many as 5,000 women and girls are killed by members of their own families each year according to the United Nations Population Fund, and at least a dozen of such cases happen annually in Britain, which saw a 47 per cent rise in honour-related attacks in 2010, with police authorities reporting 2,283 cases.