3 Nov 2010

Canadian police investigate relative's claims that 4 women and girls were murdered in so-called 'honour killings'

The Montreal Gazette - July 25, 2009

Kingston murder victim was abused, brother says

By Paul Cherry, Gazette crime reporter

Mohammed Shafi and Rona Amir Mohammed in a photo taken 30 years ago in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph by: Handout, The Gazette

Rona Amir Mohammad did not want to go on the trip that ultimately resulted in her being murdered.

“She refused to go but they said ‘you can’t stay home alone. You have to come with us’,” said Wali Abdali, Mohammad’s brother who lives in France.

The people who aggressively persuaded Mohammad to go on the trip to Niagara Falls were her husband Mohammad Shafia, 56, and his second wife 39-year-old Tooba Mohammad Yahya. Both are now charged, along with their son Hamed, 18, with murdering Mohammad, 50, along with their daughters – Zainab, 19, Sahari, 17, and Geeti 13 – in what Abdali and other relatives of Mohammad’s believe were so-called “honour killings.”

The bodies of all four were discovered on June 30 in a car found submerged near the Kingston Mills Locks on the Rideau Canal, near Kingston.

Being invited on the trip to Niagara Falls seemed unusual to his sister, said Abdali. He said Mohammad, who married Shafia in Afghanistan in either 1979 or 1980, had become the target of abuse after Shafia married Yahya as his second wife, also in Afghanistan, in the late 1980s.

The abuse continued, Abdali said, and got much worse when the family moved to Canada two years ago. He said Mohammad could not have children but raised Yahya’s children as if they were her own.

“If they had a problem with their father, they went to my sister for help, not (Yahya). (Mohammad) was the one who raised the kids” he said.

The abuse grew to the point where Mohammad felt like a prisoner in the St. Léonard duplex where she lived with Shafia, Yahya and their seven children, Abdali said.

“They wouldn’t let her use the phone. She had to sneak out and find a public phone so she could call us.

“They did everything they could to mistreat my sister, to insult my sister.”

Shafia’s relationship with his daughters worsened when the family arrived in Canada and, Abdali alleged, Shafia began making death threats.

“My sister was very worried,” he said.

Learning of his sister’s death stunned Abwali, but his emotions quickly turned to anger when he saw Yahya had been interviewed by several media, including The Gazette, in which she claimed the deaths were likely an accident caused by Zainab. Yahya also claimed Mohammad was an aunt to her daughters. The Kingston police have said they believe both claims are lies.

“Also, the police were talking about how it was impossible for the car to have ended up (in the canal). We knew something wasn’t right,” Abdali said. “It shocked us. We asked ‘what is going on here?’ ”

Their anger prompted Diba Masoomi, another of Mohammad’s siblings living in France, to write an email which was anonymously sent out to several media outlets and the Kingston police a week after the deaths.

Kingston police confirmed on Thursday they are pursuing allegations the slayings were carried out as so-called honour killings, a homicide wherein people are killed by family members for a perceived violation of a code of conduct.

Abdali said one thing that seemed to set off Shafia recently was that his daughter Zainab had dated a young man the father did not approve of.

Joyce Gilbert, who lived downstairs from the Shafia family, said that a few months ago, Zainab ran away from home for a couple of weeks because her father didn’t approve of her relationship.

“It was during the spring. I don’t know where she went,” Gilbert said. “Her parents could not accept it. But she eventually came home.”

On Friday, Quebec Youth Protection Services confirmed reports it was involved with the family in the months preceding the deaths.

“We can say that Youth Protection Services did intervene with the family” said Jocelyne Boudreault, a spokesperson for the government organization that now is taking care of Shafia and Yahya’s three surviving children.

Boudreault said Youth Protection was required to intervene in a family matter months ago. She also said she could not elaborate, citing privacy issues.

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Victim in multiple 'honour killings' attempted to marry just weeks before her murder

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