Wednesday 1 February 2012

This is the worst kind of honour killings

Generally when honour killings are committed, one person becomes the victim. That person is usually a female although there have been instances when a male was also murdered in the name of honour. However, Canada had four victims of an honour killing in which they were all females and of one family.

The trial judge said to the father, mother and eldest son who were convicted of four counts of first degree murder for murdering three teenage daughters and the girl’s stepmother who was 52-years of age; “It’s difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honourless’ crime. The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your twisted notion of honour, a notion of honour founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honour that has no place in any civilized society.”

Since October of last year when the trial of the three murderers began, the newspapers have given us tidbits of information about this sad tale. What I have done is re-organize the tidbits so that my readers will have an easier time of fathoming what really happened.

The Victims

And now I will give you the background of these four innocent victims by first telling you something about each of them.

Rona Mohammed Amir was 52 years of age when she was murdered. She was the first wife of Mohammad Shafia, age 58 who was the father of the three girls he helped murder along with the murder of his first wife.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Laurie Lacelle used selected excerpts from Ms. Amir's diary to illustrate how she was mistreated and threatened by her former husband and his wife. The full diary tells the depressing story of two grown women bickering over their shared husband, who got how much gold jewelry and whose turn it was to do the housework.

Her story began when Ms. Amir, who was herself one of five children born to her father’s second wife, was being scouted as a likely bride for Mr. Shafia by his mother. And this was the fate for a girl who was by Afghan standards, well-educated. She finished Grade 11 and was a striking-good looking woman. She was in anyone’s eyes and mind, what we would call a damn good catch.

As part of the ritual undertaken by a prospective groom’s family, she was duly inspected (in that part of her anatomy that is very private) before the deal was made, all of it arranged by her would-be mother-in-law. She said, “She invited all of us to her house so that her son could have a good look at me.” When her elder brother came to ask whether she accepted the union, Ms. Amir said, “Give me away in marriage if he is a good man; don’t if he is not.”

Two years later, she and Mr. Shafia were married at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel, and thus began the ‘downward spiral’ of her life. Rona Mohammed was infertile and unable to have children. In 1989, her husband then took Tooba Yahya to be his second wife in a polygamous marriage, (which is legal in Afghanistan) and she gave birth to seven children.

Rona played a crucial role in their upbringing and raised the children as if they were her own. When her former husband and his new wife (Tooba Yahya) moved with their children to Canada, Rona was packed off to relatives in France until a visitor’s visa was arranged for her six months later. Mr. Abdali said he pleaded with her not to go to Canada. “But she said no, because of the children. She raised those children. She was their true mother,” he said. “She could not bear to be separated from the children, because she knew that if she wasn’t there, they would be mistreated because their father was a bit strict, a bit cruel.”

There was one hitch with her move to Canada. Since polygamy is outlawed in Canada, they had to lie about the status of Rona. She was presented to the Canadian immigration authorities as a domestic.

First, Rona told Shafie (their husband) to spend three nights with Tooba Yahya and one night with Rona. According to Ms. Amir, the younger wife, Tooba Yahya, (age 42 when convicted of the murders) was resplendently fertile and schemed to separate Rona from the husband they both called Shafie. As time moved on, Rona was permanently separated from her former husband’s bed.

While she lived with her former husband and her new wife and their children, she was treated as if she was the aunt to the children. According to a family member's interview, Rona was trapped in an abusive, loveless marriage, trying in vain to convince her husband to grant her a divorce and being unsuccessful in her attempt.

Yahya, the second wife, allegedly said to Rona “You are a slave, you are a servant.” Rona's siblings claimed that she feared for her life during the days leading up to her death.

Reportedly, the Shafias held all of Rona’s identity documents, including her passport, so Rona believed she could not flee to another country where she had relatives. It was reported that Rona came to Canada as a domestic servant on a visitor's visa and the visas renewal was held over her head like an axe ready to fall while in the hands of her former husband and his second wife.

Rona was keen to get out of her marriage and talked with tearful regularity with a women’s rights activist (Fahima Vorgetts) The activist urged her to leave, but Rona was too afraid to escape the clutches of her former husband and his new wife.

Vorgetts told the court that that Rona called her a number of times during a period of a year. She said that she wanted out. At court, she testified, “She was afraid. She said if she leaves, or goes to the police, her husband will kill her or send her back to Afghanistan.” That fear to escape later resulted in her death.

Zainab Shafia was 19 years of age when she was murdered. Her relationship with a Pakistani boy at their school was a source of much anger for her father who made threats to kill her. She warned her school suitor that her brother should also not know about their friendship. Zainab’s brother Hamed attended the same school.

“Let me explain the rules of my friendship, first, be aware of my bro, then if (you) sometimes wanna talk, come in the library and if my brother is around, act like complete strangers,” Zainab Shafia, wrote, in an email sent February 16th, 2008, to the young man.

Only once was the young man invited to visit Zainab at her house since her parents were out of the country and just her younger sisters and her stepmother Rona were there.

But Hamed unexpectedly arrived home. He went directly to the garage where the young man was hiding behind a box, shook his hand, then asked him to leave and opened the garage door so he could oblige.

Hamed then got on the phone and told their parents about the relationship between his sister and the young man. Hamed who was a year her junior but of course, as a male, under the Stone Age zeitgeist the family brought with them from their native Afghanistan, he was treated as Zainab’s superior. He told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to go to school again until their parents returned to Canada, whereupon they could decide on her future. For that heinous sin, (having the Pakistani boy as a boyfriend) Zainab was yanked out of school, and separated from the boy for 10 months.

Only almost a year afterward, when Zainab and her boyfriend met, did the young suitor learn that Zainab had been confined to her room during most of that time and allowed out only for her meals.

By the time she and her boyfriend were reunited again, she was back at school, It was a French school near the Shafia home (Zainab’s French wasn’t good), and conveniently, Hamad, the family guard dog was also attending the same school.

The end of their relationship was poignant. After it ended, in one of the last emails Zainab sent him, on June 2, 2009, she wrote in part, “seriously I’m missing u tooooooo but well one thing I’m really happy about is that….even one day if sum thing happens to us like dead I wnt die with out my dream being full filled. I love u much n thnx 4 loving me the same way.”

Well as it turned out, her fears of ending up dead became a reality. Zainab actually got away a few months before her death. She spent two weeks at a women’s shelter and quickly married one boy, agreed to it being annulled and agreed to marry another. It was her near-escape which seems to have plummeted the family into a full-blown crisis.

Sahar Shafia, was age 17 when she was murdered. Sahar once tried to kill herself, and was so utterly distraught and sad, her teachers twice called child-protection authorities—one for francophones, one for anglophones—the most recent complaint made just 25 days before she died. These child protection authorities did nothing to help the poor girl.

Sahar told her boyfriend’s aunt she believed her parents would kill her if they found out about her relationship with the young man from Honduras but she planned to tell them about it because she would love him “until death.” The boy’s aunt said that Sahar repeated the claim several times and appeared serious.

They dated for only four months, but they were planning to marry, he said in court. Most of their dates consisted of having lunch during her school day. Once, they were hugging when one of her relatives walked into the restaurant: At Sahar’s insistence, the young man said, they sprang apart, and he pretended to be another girl’s boyfriend. When the Shafias went away on their final trip, they managed a few phone calls, and he sent her a couple of besotted texts in his first language, which Sahar understood only a little.

In her last text, sent the night she died, she told him they were about three hours away from Montreal, and were going to stop at a Kingston motel. When she stopped answering his texts, the young man called her 22 times in the next 17 hours. All went to voice mail.

Part of what he wrote in a text a week earlier were these lines: “The world is very large, it’s so large that one day I could even lose you. But in this world, as large as it is, know there’s a small heart, and you can never get lost in that heart, because it’s only for you, my love.” If Sahar couldn’t read every word, perhaps she recognized the love and sweetness.

Sahar was the daughter who was given away 40 days after her birth to Tooba Mohammad Yahya. It was her gift of motherhood to her barren co-spouse.

Sahar being the second oldest of five girl children born to Tooba and Mohammad Shafia, appears to have been a favourite of her dad, until he discovered her ‘treachery’ which a forbidden boyfriend had kept secret, the sexy clothes into which she apparently changed upon leaving the house many mornings and the stories of abuse in the family she’d related to her teachers. This so-called treachery later result in her death.

Geeti Shafia was age 13 when she was murdered. It was Geeti, who’d be 16 today were her life not cut so short, who bore the greatest resemblance to her mother, Tooba Mohammad Yahya. Yet it was also Geeti, the youngest of the three sisters to die at the Kingston Mills Locks, who was most determined to leave her mother and the household she thought was so dysfunctional.

Geeti was a handful, by all accounts. She defied authority. She came home late. She was caught shoplifting. She skipped school, where she had discipline issues. During her last semester, she failed three of four subjects. She was sent home, as well, for dressing too provocatively.

When her other siblings lost their nerve in denouncing their father and brother to authorities, or softened their stances once things got serious, she did not. Her backbone remained firm.

Two months before she was murdered, she and her other siblings asked a stranger to call the police. When the police arrived, Geeti didn’t hesitate to tell them that a week earlier, they got home late, their father pulled her hair and struck her face. He often threatened them, she told police. Her older brother, the patriarch when Shafia was away, had also hit her in the past.

Geeti, however, repeated the story to a detective who interviewed her at school the following Monday although this time she was more evasive. Geeti told the detective she wanted out of the house. She wanted to be placed immediately with a foster family. “I asked her, why do you want to be placed?” Det. Laurie-Anne Lefebvre recalled. “She said she had no freedom, she wanted to be like her friends, to go out.” The detective couldn’t gather enough evidence from her to support a charge of brutality. The file was closed.

Geeti and her 17-year-old sister Sahar, had hatched a plan to run away together. Unfortunately, they remained in the home. Geeti wrote to her sister. “Dear Sahar. I don’t know what I’m going to do if you leave the house one day? I promise that before I die, I am going to make sure that all your wishes come true. I wish that we are never separated.” signed “Best sisters.” Together the two would not run away but, rather, they would die and die together.

The Murderers

Mohammed Shafia, age 59 was the father of the three girls and was also the former husband of Rona Mohammed Amir. He was convicted of four counts of first degree murder by a jury on January 29th 2012 for participating in the murder of the four victims.

He was a native of Afghanistan who came to Canada in 2007 as a wealthy man intent on imprisoning his daughters and former wife in an authoritarian household.

Reza Hyderi, Yahya’s first cousin, said the Shafia family was invited to his sister’s wedding in the summer of 2007. It was to be an exciting event for the Shafia children, a chance to meet their cousins, and the girls bought new dresses.

“On the day of the wedding they never showed up, and after, I heard that the father got upset because the girls’ dresses had no sleeves,” Mr. Hyderi said. “He took a pair of scissors and cut up all the clothes. He was so obsessed, so closed-minded.”

The roots of the obsession stretch back to Shafia’s native Afghanistan, where he was born in 1952. After his mother divorced his father and remarried, he did not get past Grade 8 in school, according to Wali Abdali, the brother of Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad.

“He had a store in Kabul to repair radios and televisions. He started like that then gradually his business grew, he was buying televisions to sell, then he was importing televisions from Japan, to resell,” Mr. Abdali said in an interview from France. “That’s how he made his profits. It started with a small business.”

The two families were close, and in 1978 it was arranged that Shafia would marry Ms. Mohammad. “It was a joyous celebration,” Mr. Abdali said of the lavish wedding held at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel and attended by 300 guests. The bride’s family approved of the match. “He was a boy who did not drink, who did not smoke, who had a job,” Mr. Abdali said.

Then he learned that Shafia had taken a second wife, a practice that is legal in Afghanistan. Ms. Mohammad had been unable to bear children, so Shafia married Yahya in 1988 and another celebration was held at the Intercontinental. The news did not overly upset Ms. Mohammad’s family, as there were signs that the wives would be on equal footing. “My brother-in-law presented both at the ceremony. I think it went well,” Mr. Abdali said.

It is not clear how Shafia amassed his fortune, but he was already rich by the age of 40. The court heard that when he left Afghanistan in 1992, he lost $200,000 in the transfer of $1.5-million worth of “goods” to Pakistan. Mr. Hyderi said he heard that Shafia at one point held a government posting in Kabul and would supplement his income by demanding bribes from the families of prisoners, promising to arrange their release. He said he is skeptical that Shafia could have become a multi-millionaire by selling electronics in war-torn Afghanistan and reselling damaged cars, as he would do later on.

After Pakistan, the growing Shafia family moved on to Dubai. Yahya eventually gave birth to a total of seven children.

They spent a year in Australia, but Shafia did not appreciate the local Afghan women’s support group reaching out to his wives, according to Mr. Hyderi. After another stint in Dubai, he decided to make the move to Canada where Yahya had a large extended family. The wealthy Shafia was welcomed under Quebec’s investor immigrant program, and promptly bought a $2-million shopping mall in the suburb of Laval, paying $1.6-million of it in cash.

Mr. Hyderi said of Mohammed Shafia, “He was not religious as some have said. I never saw him do prayer. But he was a strict man who did not want anyone looking at his wife.”

Once in Canada, the climate in the household deteriorated quickly, as Shafia felt his iron grip slipping. Mr. Hyderi, 31, who immigrated to Canada in 2000, said the message was clear that Shafia expected total control over his children. Mr. Hyderi was insulted to hear that Shafia did not even want his girls mingling with their male cousins. “He said the girl’s father said that it was male cousins who open the door for female cousins to be prostitutes. The first time he met Zainab at a family picnic, she was wearing a hijab and he avoided even shaking hands with her when he was introduced to her. He said, “Normally I hug my cousins, and kiss them on the cheeks.” Considering the behavior of the girl’s father, he took it as a hint and had little contact with the Shafias after that, even though they lived nearby.

Tooba insisted that he (Hyderi) butt out: “She said, ‘You don’t know Shafia. He’s very mean. He’s very selfish, and I’m afraid he’s going to come home from Dubai, and he’s going to hit her, or he’s going to make Hamed kill her.’ I said, ‘Tooba, what are you talking about. No father would do that.” Well he was wrong on that point.

Tooba Yahya, age 42 is the second wife of Mohammed Shafia and the mother of the three girls who were murdered and four other siblings who were not murdered and the sister-in-law of the fourth victim, Rona

Tooba was emphatic about the sleeping arrangements with Mohammad Shafia when daintily probed on that subject. In the midst of a trial about the murdered dead, a great deal was revealed about them living together. It was she, not Roma Amir Mohammad, who shared the matrimonial bed with their husband. And that husband was a chronically foul-mouthed screamer who endlessly belaboured his aggravations, of which there were seemingly plenty according to Tooba.

Charged with killing her three daughters and her sister-in-law, she turned the tables on the prosecutor in her case by accusing him of having an overactive imagination and likening his theory of what happened to a child's bedtime story. Well, the jury accepted the bedtime story as fact.

Dr. Mohammad Anwar Yaqubi, Shafia's half brother and a doctor now living in the Netherlands, also testified that Yahya and Shafia's first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, were like sisters. Shafia married Yahya because Mohammad couldn't have children. He also mentioned that when Hamed was a toddler, Rona fell carrying him and they were both injured. Yaqubi offhandedly remarked that when it happened, some relatives thought Yahya had pushed her.

Hamed Shafia was 21 when he was convicted of participating in the murder of his three sisters and his stepmother. The description of him is that he was his father’s pit bull who kept a tight reign on his sisters as per his father’s instructions. To say that he was mean to them is an understatement. He on occasion would slap them if he thought they weren’t conducting themselves properly.

The Murders

Admittedly, no third persons witnessed the murders of these unfortunate children and their stepmother, but the circumstantial evidence was so overwhelming, the jury had not other choice but to convict each of the three defendants with four counts of first degree murder.

After the jury announced its verdict and the judge made his damming comment about how despicable these three murderers are, he said, "For these crimes, for these murders, the sentence is mandatory as set out in the Criminal Code of Canada — imprisonment without eligibility of parole for a period of 25 years — and that’s the sentence of the court for each of you."

Now I will direct you to the scene where the bodies of the victims were found.

Their bodies were found inside a second-hand Nissan-Sentra. Obviously, the murderers didn’t have any intention of keeping the Nissan-Sentra for long. The used Nissan-Sentra had been purchased for $5,000 just one day before the family left on their trip. That alone would be suspicious since the family was rich enough by already have two expensive vehicles. They could have used the second expensive vehicle instead of buying a second-hand Nissan-Sentra.

The water in the Kingston Mills Locks where the Nissan-Sentra was found was only a little more than two metres deep, or about six feet, 10 inches.

The question that cropped up in the minds of the police investigators was, “Why didn’t the victims attempt to escape from the sinking vehicle?” The court heard evidence that it appeared that the four victims made no attempt to escape the car through an open window next to where the driver would sit and the bodies were found eerily suspended inside. This also means that they were not seat-belted in.

If the doors and windows had been closed, they would have had difficulty in escaping the vehicle because of the water pressure against the outside of the vehicle forcing the doors to remain closed. However since the front driver’s window was wound down, this means that the car filled up with water very quickly and the victims could then open the doors and exit the car and swim to the surface. However, this they did not do.

Obviously, they were unconscious before their vehicle was shoved into the lock. In fact, they had been struck on their heads with a heavy object even though no one other than their killer or killers saw this happening. There were bruise marks on their scalps which explains why they were either unconscious or dead when their car was shoved into the water.

One of the really puzzling aspects of this case was the prosecutor’s proposition that they had been drowned before their bodies had been placed inside the vehicle. His proposition was pretty speculative and how it was done and where it was done was simply not explained at any time during the trial. The only way they could have drowned before being placed in the Nissan-Sentra is if after they were struck by the heavy object, they were thrown into the water where they drowned while in an unconscious state and then were pulled out of the water and placed inside the vehicle.

Quite frankly, I find that rather hard to believe also. It is my opinion that they were knocked unconscious and then placed inside the vehicle and after it sank in the water and filled up with water, it was then that they drowned.

There is no doubt in my mind that they were placed inside the Nissan-Sentra after they were knocked unconscious. My reasoning is based on the evidence of the diver who went into the water and discovered the bodies. He testified that the front seats were so fully reclined — they were almost flat — and for this reason, it would have been difficult for anyone to drive the car. Obviously, the front seats were put in a reclining position, thereby making it easier for their murderers to place two of the victims in the front seats. The back seats couldn’t be put in a reclining position but it would have been easier to place the two younger girls in those seats.

The defence argued that the driver of the car, Zainab Shafia who the defendants claimed was driving the car, accidentally drove the car into the water. Of course that was pure bunk. I can’t even imagine why their lawyers would even raise that possibility considering the fact that aside from the fact that the driver’s seat was almost flat, the ignition was in the off position and the automatic shifter was in first, or low, gear.

Now the driver would have had no reason to drive the car in low gear but the murderer who wanted the car to drive itself into the lock would have first shifted the gear into the low-gear position. The reason for that decision was that had he shifted the gear from neutral to the drive position, the car would move forward more quickly than had it moved forward in the lower gear. By having the car move forward in the lower gear would make it possible fore the murderer to get his body out of the car before it drove into the water dragging him with it.

But the real damming evidence was the damage at the rear of the Nissan-Sentra. With the wheels spinning, someone reached in through the open window to turn the car off then the Lexus SUV was used to push the Nissan-Sentra all the way into the canal, which would explain the damage to both the back of the Nissan-Sentra and the head light of the Lexus SUV.

There was evidence that another vehicle had pushed the Nissan-Sentra into the water. But why was a second car needed for that purpose? Well, it appears that after the gear in the Nissan-Sentra was shifted into low gear as an attempt to tip that vehicle off the precipice of the northern-most lock, the Nissan-Sentra got caught up on the concrete ledge and for this reason it would go no further. With the wheels spinning, one of the murderers reached in through the open window to turn the car off. It was after that the Lexus SUV was used to push the Nissan-Sentra all the way into the canal, which would explain the damage to both the back of the Nissan-Sentra and the head light of the Lexus SUV.

Now obviously, the murderers were not thinking straight. Had they moved the front seats to an upright position, left the ignition in the on position and placed the gears into the drive position, perhaps then their story that the car was accidentally driven into the water would make some sense.

You know what they say about fingerprints. Don’t leave them behind if you have committed a crime. Well in this case, it wasn’t fingerprints that were left behind; it was parts of one of the headlights of the Lexus SUV that was left behind. When the Lexus SUV was used to push the Nissan-Sentra over the ledge, it created corresponding damage to both vehicles. The damage to the front of the Lexus SUV matched the damage to some degree to the rear of the Nissan-Sentra.

Shoving the Nissan-Sentra into the water obviously, caused damage to the Lexus SUV’s headlamp, pieces of which were found at the canal and in Montreal where Hamed admitted to staging an accident with a guard rail in a parking lot, specifically to cover up damage to the SUV. Damage to the two vehicles would later be matched up by accident reconstruction experts.

In my opinion, the Lexus SUV was at that time being driven by Hamed Shafia when the Nissan-Sentra was shoved into the water. He later admitted being on the scene when the Nissan-Sentra went into the lock. But he also did a really stupid thing. He upon realizing that he would have to explain the damage to the front end of the Lexus SUV, then drove that car to Montreal which was an approximate drive of 290 kilometres (175 miles) each way. When he got there, he created a collision between the Lexus SUV and a parking barrier in a near-empty lot that very morning in Montreal. Later the Kingston police called colleagues in Montreal to make some initial inquiries about the vehicle and were startled to find that Hamed had reported the collision in Montreal. He even had asked the officer who took his collision report if the damage could be repaired immediately. What he didn’t realize was that because it was dark when he pushed the Nissan-Sentra into the water, he left part of the headlight of the Lexus SUV on the ground. The drive to Montreal and back was for naught.

By the end of Day 1, police already had their suspicions, but they still had a long way to go to build a case against the family. The next day Const. Steve Koopman got consent from Shafia to search the Lexus SUV and pieces of the broken Lexus SUV’s head light, presumably from Hamed’s parking lot collision, were taken to be analyzed. Const. Rob Etherington was busy trying to reconstruct the head light with pieces from the Montreal collision, when he discovered what would be the turning point in the investigation. Tiny pieces of plastic collected at the scene where the Nissan-Sentra was found were the missing pieces of the Lexus head light. This shot down the family’s story that the Lexus was never at the scene that night.

Other damaging evidence was presented in court by the prosecutor. The prosecutor said that all three defendants participated in and contributed to a planned mass murder. They searched the Internet on such subjects as “where to commit a murder,” and scouted out sites, prosecutors documented. They chose the locks at Kingston Mills on a return family trip from Niagara Falls.

Police received cellphone records on July 14th 2009, and were surprised to find that on June 27th, right in the middle of their family vacation to Niagara Falls, Hamed’s cellphone was pinging off a tower in the Kingston area. Records show he or someone else who was using his phone, drove 4 ½ hours from Niagara Falls to Kingston and back the same day.

It was an odd finding, and Shafia would later testify that he took Hamed’s cellphone and was driving back to Montreal in the middle of the trip when Sahar called asking him to come back as he happened to be passing through Kingston. So, he said, he turned around and drove back to Niagara. The prosecutor says it was both Shafia and his son, Hamed who drove to Kingston that day to do some reconnaissance on the site they had picked for the murder.

Remember what I said about leaving fingerprints at the scene of a crime. Well, it wasn’t their fingerprints that did them in, it was their stupidity in the manner in which they prepared their crime and later performed it that did them in. Like most criminals, they were amateurs who bungled their crime.

In Canada, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove motive to get a conviction but certainly in this particular case, there was plenty of motive on the part of Mohammed Shafia.

The police obtained a court order to wiretap the home and cars of the family. On those damning wiretaps, Shafia had advised and reassured his son: “We are not ashamed of our conscience, neither you nor I nor your mother. Be like a man. Your mother is also like a man. Even if, God forbid, they hoist us onto the gallows, don’t think about it, don’t worry about it, (because) whatever the eventuality, it is from God. We accept it wholeheartedly. There is nothing more valuable than our honour.”

Those are the words of a man who isn’t ashamed of having brought about the deaths of members of his family. His reference to the gallows (which we don’t have in Canada anymore) is a hint that he committed the crime of murder.

Intercepted communications also recorded Shafia using caustic language to refer to his daughters, calling them “treacherous” and “whores.” And he was unrepentant: “Even if they come back to life a hundred times, if I have a cleaver in my hand, I will (cut them) to pieces. Not once but a hundred times. If we remain alive one night or one year, we have no tension in our hearts, (thinking that) our daughter is in the arms of this or that boy, in the arms of this or that man. God curse their graduation! Curse of God on both of them (Zainab and Sahar), on their kind. God’s curses on them for a generation. May the devil shit on their graves! Is that what a daughter should be? What a daughter be such a whore?” unquote

In Canada and other civilized countries around the world, men and women are equal. A female’s life is worth as much as a male’s life is. In those countries, femicide is homicide.

Bad Afghan boys don’t end up drowned in a canal. Bad Afghan boys can stay out until 3 a.m. with their little brothers and not get slapped across the face for it. As Crown Attorney Laurie Lacelle had told the jury in her closing submissions: “The rules are different for boys. They couldn’t become sexually compromised. They couldn’t become whores as their father called them.”

The Shafia sisters were still in their teens when their lives came to an end in the early morning hours of June 30th, 2009. Gorgeous Zainab was 19. Sultry Sahar was 17. Rebellious Geeti was 13. And Rona, sad, doomed and betrayed Rona, Shafia’s first wife in a clandestinely polygamous Afghan marriage, was 52 when she too was murdered.
Justice — the best legal representation these three murderers could afford and presumption of innocence for all the accused — but a final day of reckoning for them at the Frontenac County Courthouse. They’d waited for the verdict in the basement cell. It arrived at just after 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 29th 2012. From the flat expressions on the faces of the accused, it was obvious they sensed what the decision would be.

After 15 hours of deliberation, a jury of five men and seven women sealed the fate of the accused. At precisely 1:58 p.m., the jury filed in, their seating arrangement altered so that the designated foreman could address the court from closest to the judge’s bench. The panel’s verdict was handed to a court official who presented it to Maranger. It was then read aloud by the foreman. Mohammad Shafia, as on the indictment, heard his fate first: “The verdict is guilty of first-degree murder.” At that point, Hamed, who had shown no emotion throughout the trial and never took the stand in his own defence, raised his hands to his face and began weeping. Shafia first rubbed gently at his son’s back then he patted the top of his head. An honourable boy, as Shafia had indicated on the wiretaps, his pride and joy. Then Hamed too got the bad news, as did his mother.

They were each found guilty of first degree murder for each of the four victims they murdered. And for those crimes, they would spend another 23 years in prison. Although the law says that anyone who is convicted of first degree murder must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before they can apply for parole, the law also allows the sentence to be reduced by the amount of time they spent in custody while waiting for their trial. This means that they can apply for parole sometime around 2030.

These three evil persons must realize by now that even when they become eligible to apply for parole, it doesn’t mean that the parole board is obligated to release them. The sentence is a life sentence and they could be kept in prison for many years after they have served the original 25 years as many other murderers have found out when their 25-year period was reached.

Their lives in prison are going to be very difficult for them. Child killers in prison are generally placed in protective custody which means solitary confinement.

In Canada, even the most wicked and palpably culpable of defendants are guaranteed a fair trial, a vigorous defence, which is what these three grotesque individuals got, with all the courtesy and respect the court could offer. These three evil criminals got a fair trial and they were properly represented. It is beyond my understanding as to why two of their lawyers feel that they have grounds to appeal the verdicts. They certainly can’t appeal the decision of the jury but perhaps they feel that the judge in making his directions to the jury erred. We will have to wait and see what the bases of their appeals are.

Will the sentencing of these three evil people stop honour killings in Canada? I doubt it. It is a sad commentary of our times that there are real evil people in Canada who are best described as scum found at the bottom of a dirty stagnant pond. They believe that their honour is so sacrosanct; they can commit any crime, even murder members of their own families to maintain it.

This case brought up major questions about immigration and cultural integration in Canada, which takes in 250,000 immigrants a year, more per capita than anywhere save Australia.

In recent years a number of so-called honour killings have prompted debate about absorbing immigrants into the mainstream and dealing with culture clashes between immigrant parents and their children.

More than 80 Canadian Muslim organizations, imams and community leaders have signed a call for action against ‘the reality of domestic violence within our own communities, compounded by abhorrent and yet persistent pre-Islamic practices rooted in the misguided notion of restoring family honour’.

Honour killings bring shame upon those who commit them and also shame on those who condone them. There is no place in our society for such criminals. As far as I am concerned, these three murderers should never be released from prison. If they have to serve the rest of their lives in prison, then justice will prevail in this sad story.

Now there are some people who will bleat and say that everyone is entitled to a second chance and for this reason, these three evil killers should be released after having served 25 years. But let me put my views on that topic in a different light for you.

Suppose a robber walked into a convenience store and shot and killed the man at the counter and he was subsequently arrested, charged, tried and convicted and sent to prison for a minimum of 25 years. He would in all likelihood be released after having served 25 years in prison.

But suppose he ordered the man behind the counter and three customers to lie on the floor face down and then he methodically shot them all in the head, thereby killing them. And suppose one of those victims was your spouse or your child. In Canada, he would still be sentenced to prison for a minimum of 25 years and then he could apply for parole even though he killed four people. That is the problem with our law with respect to the punishment for first degree murder. Admittedly, Canadian authorities are considering changing the law so that anyone who kills more than one person will be sentence to an additional 25 years for every person he kills. In the case I have written about today; that would mean that these three evil killers would have to serve a minimum of 100 years instead of 25 years before they could apply for parole. In reality, they wouldn’t be applying for parole in any case because they will have died in prison.

But because that law hasn’t been enacted as of yet, the son could still apply for parole in 2035. But if his application was granted, this would mean that he served six years and three months for each victim he killed. If it was your spouse in the convenience store who was one of the four persons murdered by the robber, would you be satisfied with the robber only serving six years and three months in prison for killing your spouse? I don’t think so either.

The Americans have a better solution. When they send a murderer to prison, most states send him or her to prison for the rest of their natural lives. One man in the U.S., who killed three people, was sentenced to 1,000 years for each killing. He appealed by saying that the sentence was ridiculous. The appeal court agreed and reduced the total time to be served to 1,500 years. The message was clear. The killer was expected to die in prison. Hopefully, the evil threesome I have written about will all die in prison.

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