Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona Shafia
Zainab (19), Sahar (17 ) and Geeti Shafia (13) were three sisters in a family of seven siblings who lived in Montreal, Ontario. The family was originally from Afghanistan. The girls’ father Mohammed Shafia had two wives; Rona Mohammed (50) and Tooba Yahya, marrying Tooba after Rona could not have children. Rona had helped in the upbringing of the children and was presented to everyone as the ‘aunt’ of the family.
On June 30th 2009, Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona were found dead inside a car, a black Nissan, discovered underwater in the northernmost Kingston Mills lock of the Rideau Canal in Montreal. The same day Mohammed Shafia had reported to the police that his three daughters and the purported aunt were missing.
Police had at first believed it was a tragic accident. However, subsequent investigation revealed that the family SUV had met with an accident the same morning in Montreal. After assessing the damage on both vehicles, police theorized that the SUV was used to ram the Nissan into the locks. It was speculated that the murder may have been an honour killing by Mohammed Shafia and Tooba Yahya, with support of their only son Hamed Shafia.
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 also feared for her life. It was reported that the Shafias held all of Rona’s identity documents, including her passport, leading Rona to believe that she could not leave. They also stated that the family’s eldest daughter Zainab’s was in a relationship with a Pakistani boy prompting much anger for her father. Teachers and social workers who had known the girls also said that the girls faced verbal abuse, coercion, pressure, and compulsion at home almost like “political prisoners”. But those who could have intervened failed to do so at the time.
Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed were arrested on July 23, on charges of four counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. During the course of the trial, which began in October 2011, prosecutors call up over 58 witnesses. Evidence revealed that google searches had been made on the family computer on “how to commit murders’ and “documentaries of murders” as well as research into waterways.
In January 2012, Mohammed, Tooba and Hamed were each found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder with no chance of parole for 25 years. Christie Blatchford journalist of the Canadian National Post said in an interview that all these girls ever wanted were “ordinary freedoms of the ordinary teenager”.
Four beautiful lives. Taken away by false assumptions of honor, of pride. Oh what is honor and what is pride in the face of innocence and purity? What is honor and pride in the face of truth and justice? Oh but nothing. Honor is nothing if Love is denied.
“All I ever want is to be free, dear sister..” she said
“To love, to live. To be, to breathe.”
“One day” – I replied back … “One day.”
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