Canadian Court Says No “Honor” in Killing Women


Two and a half years after the bodies of four women were pulled from a car that had plunged into the Rideau Canal at Kingston Mills, Ontario, their murderers have been found guilty. Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

The drama began June 30, 2009, when a black Nissan Sentra was discovered near the Kingston Mill Locks. Inside were the bodies of three daughters of Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Yahya: Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13. Their aunt (Mohammad’s first wife), Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, was found with them.

Mohammad Shafia and his wife reported their daughters missing. When the bodies were retrieved, the pair made a show of grief, but on July 22nd police arrested them and their son as they were heading for Montreal’s international airport. A tip from one of the girls’ relatives, along with evidence the deaths were suspicious, prompted Kingston police to arrest the trio before they could flee the country.

Abuse Escalated As Girls Became Westernized

The Shafia family was originally from Afghanistan. When Mohammad Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir, proved unable to bear children, he took a second wife. Tooba Yahya bore him seven children. Though Amir requested a divorce, Shafia refused.

When the family moved to Canada after a decade in Dubai, they claimed Amir was a domestic servant so they could bring her with them. As the older girls adapted to western culture, their father became increasingly abusive. Amir and the girls lived in fear for their lives.

Finally, Zainab secretly married her boyfriend to escape the family. The marriage was annulled after one day, and Zainab was returned to the family home. For Mohammad and his wife and son, Zainab’s defiance was unforgivable.

Father Accused Daughter of Being a Whore

During the trial, jurors heard wire-tap evidence of Mohammad Shafia’s rage at his daughter’s defiance. He said:

If we remain alive for 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, on their kind! God’s curse their generation! May the Devil s— on their graves! This this what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?

The family’s honor was at stake. Sahar and Geeti were also adopting western dress, refusing to wear traditional garb, meeting boys. In a conversation recorded by police, Mohammad Shafia said:

They betrayed humankind; they betrayed Islam; they betrayed our religion and creed; they betrayed our tradition; they betrayed everything.

Three-month Trial Ends in Conviction

Reporting the outcome of the trial, the Montreal Gazette wrote:

Geeti and other Shafia children spoke to police in April 2009, roughly 10 weeks before their deaths. They told officers they feared violence from their father because their sister Zainab had run away from home. Geeti told the police that a week earlier her father had pulled her hair and hit her in the face. She said her brother Hamed punched her in the eye with his fist. The assaults came after the children returned home at 9 p.m., after their curfew, from a trip to a shopping mall.

Father, mother and brother plotted and carried out the murder of these three young women out of a twisted sense of shame that had nothing to do with honor and everything to do with hatred of women. Three younger children were spared, but their lives will be forever marred.

In his last remarks to the three killers, Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger said:

The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameless murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your twisted notion of honour, a notion of honour that is founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honour that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.

No Honor in Murder

Shortly after the murders, Daniel Dale wrote in the Toronto Star:

Ill-informed religious zealotry animates some “honour” murderers. Some perpetrators are encouraged by cultures that tolerate or encourage their violence. And in some countries, honour killing is legitimized by sexist law. Under Iraq’s penal code, for example, an “honour” defence can reduce a prison sentence from life to one year.

Culture and law, however, cannot be solely blamed for the phenomenon. The great majority of residents of patriarchal societies with lenient laws do not kill.

The four women murdered in Ontario are victims in a global war against women. It is a war in which everyone loses – women, men and children. It is time that war ended.

On December 9th, imams across Canada gave sermons condemning domestic violence and honor killings. On December 10th men in the Toronto Muslim community launched their own White Ribbon campaign, pledging “to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.”

May their commitments lead to a safer world for women and girls.

Related Care2 Stories

India’s Supreme Court Says Honor Killings Should Be Punished by Death

“Honor” Crimes Against Women in UK Rose Almost 50% Last Year

France Bans Niqab, Violence Against Muslim Women Rises

Gender Violence Is Hard to Swallow

Kids Think Violence Against Women Is Justified

Photo 1: Zainab Shafia and boyfriend Ammar from trial documents; Photo 2: Zainab Shafia, from trial documents; Photo 3: Sahar Shafia, media handout


Amy L.
Amy L4 years ago

For every man in the West that murders under this pathetic excuse to commit murder - he should have to chop his own junk off, have the label "MURDERER" tattooed on his forehead and be sent to prison for life. We could call it "Honor Justice for the Women You Got Off on Murdering".

Samantha Richardson

I am very glad that these men were put away for this unjust murder. Honour killings have nothing to do with honour and everything to do with hatred of women and controlling them, as the article said.

Cheri L.
Cheri L5 years ago

There is no consulation here but all three were given life sentences with no hope of parole for 25 years.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari L5 years ago

Same results with the teabag women haters. Control of women and if they don't comply they will be punished.
Religion is, and have always been, an opium to the people.

Ira Herson
Ira Herson5 years ago

Yes it is so sad. The girls and their mother must have been terrified. There is no excuse and no reason that anyone could do this horrible act.

We all hope never to hear of this kind of thing again.

We do not have to go back in time to see that people of all kinds did terrible things. That is history and we hope that all will learn from the horrible events from the past and not bring them into our future.

Jackie Agusta
Jackie Agusta5 years ago

Words cannot express how utterly sickening this is. How can anyone kill their own children? Very sad :-(

Mark S.
Mark S5 years ago

"Religion" is just an EXCUSE to do bad things. You cannot justify wrong.

Sian R.
Sian R5 years ago

George M - 'Religion' isn't what these people are doing. I know of no religion that condones murder.
Incidentally, did you know that the term 'honour killing' was first applied in respect of SICILIAN catholics? It was commonplace in small commuities there up until around the 1950s-60s, I believe.
And 'shotgun weddings' were also once common in America, I think.

Ira Herson
Ira Herson5 years ago

We need freedom from religion.
What is the story here. A crazy man, his wife and his son kill 4 people and say god made me do it. People start arguing about religion. My religion is better than yours. Blah Blah Blah.

It does not matter what someone reads in a book. Any book except the civil penal code is irrelevant. All the religious text are fantasy. Stories, that's all. If you want to worship Aslan from the wardrobe or JC and the 12 apostles or Snow White and the 7 dwarfs then good for you. I do not respect religion. I am not Buddaphobic, Islamaphobic or Christaphobic. I do not care what or how you believe as long as you behave. There is only civil law.

I do not care who you pray to. I do care however what you do!

Are you a good person? Do you help people then you are good. If not then you can pray 5 times a day with your nose to a mat and your butt in the air and you are not a good person. You can go to church every morning at the crack of dawn and if you hurt others and stand in the way of their civil rights then you are a bad person.

If you kill in the name of some god then you should be in prison. Simple!

Quoting scriptures to prove a point is meaningless. The logic is circular. Believe in god because the bible tells you to. Who wrote the bible - people. It does not matter what Christ or Buddha, Moses or Mohammed said or did not say. The law says it is illegal to kill. So do not kill. How easy is that?

I like rituals and enjoy the art. I think the ph

bob m.
bob m5 years ago

@ Charli S. There's a eternity of difference tween the gospel and islam...
Your use of a few abortionists ; as well as being a questionable diversion is hardly comparable.
At the root islam refuses the Lamb of God.
The rest flows from there.
And ; I follow the Lord of Salvation ... I find my life in Him... Him.....through Him..He Lives...I am forgiven ...In Him.
No other name.. there is NO comparison. Period.