The Honor Killings of The Shafia Family in Ontario, Canada

The Shafia family murders were a high profile murder case that took place in in Ontario, Canada. Three young girls: Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, aged 19,17 and 13 respectively, along with Rona Amir Mohammed, aged 50 were found dead on June 30th 2009, in a car that was found underwater in the Kingston Mills lock, a part of the Rideau Canal.

The three girls were the children of Mohammad Shafia and his second wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya. The couple also had one son, Hamed, who was 20 years old. Rona Amir Mohammed was the first wife of Mohammad Shafia, and was infertile. The couple was a part of a polygamous household.

Mohammad Shafir, Tooba Yahya and Hamed were arrested in relation to the murder on July 23rd, and were charged with four counts of first degree murder. The murders were considered to be honour killings. The case eventually went to trial, and they were found guilty of all the charges in January 2012. The trial was conducted in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Dari, and this is thought to have been the first time that a Canadian trial has been conducted in four languages. The trial attracted a huge amount of media attention, and sparked debate over values, the protection of immigrant groups, and the issue of honour killings.

The Shafia family was originally from Afghanistan. They left there in 1992, and spent time in Australia and in the United Arab Emirates. They eventually settled in Canada in 2007. Mohammad Shafia got married to Rona long before leaving Afghanistan, but she was infertile. In 1989, he married his second wife, and then had seven children. Rona raised the children as if they were hers, and when the family moved to Canada, Rona pretended to be an aunt. Rona was the only person in the family that did not practice Shi’a Islam.

According to many reports coming from around the time of the trial, Rona wished for a divorce, but her husband was unwilling to grant it. Rona was in an abusive relationship, and was told that she was a slave and a servant. Since the Shafia family had Rona’s passport, she felt that she could not flee the country. She was on a visitor’s visa, and this was used to hold power over her.

Rona was not the only member of the family that allegations of abuse or threats surfaced regarding. Zainab, the eldest daughter, was in a relationship with a Pakistani boy, and this angered Mohammad Shafia. There were allegations from family members that Mohammad had threatened to kill her.

The jury in the trial determined that the deaths were honor killings. Following the result of the trial, imams from many mosques in Canada and the US issued moral rulings condemning domestic violence, misogyny and honour killings. The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada also denounced honour killing and domestic violence, and Ali Falih Altaie, the imam of the family, called the murders unforgivable. It was a wrongful death.