The three teen sisters and their “second mom” were found in a submerged car in the Kingston Mills lock on June 20, 2009. The system had failed the teens who had reached out to various people for help in the year prior to their deaths; but their parents and elder brother who were found guilty of first degree murder in their deaths failed them first and foremost. Parents charged with caring and protecting their children were found guilty of planning and carrying out their execution as well as the death of the patriarch’s first wife who had become expendable and problematic.
Much has been said about the trial, accusations and plotting but let us take the time to acknowledge the innocent victims of the crime.
Rona Amir Mohammed was married in grand style in Kabul. Shafia began to complain about her early in the marriage. Despite medical treatment, she was unable to produce a child. After much harassment by Shafia she urged her husband to take another wife. Tooba married Mohammed Shafia and in the subsequent years, seven children were born to Shafia and Tooba. Tooba demanded more of Shafia’s attentions and began to alienate Rona Amir Mohammed to the point that she’d refer to her as her “servant”.
Life became torturous for her, financial losses due to a move that was deemed her fault as well as physical beatings at the hand of her husband. The family immigrated to Canada but left Rona behind due to the polygamous marriage and Canada’s laws regarding polygamy. She missed the children terribly and was reunited with them in Canada under the pretense of being an aunt. Upon her arrival in Canada, she was subjected to both Tooba’s vicious anger as well as her husband’s violent. Being too afraid to leave, she confided in a distant family member of the abuses. “She said if she left the house, her husband said he woul kil her…or send her back to Afghanistan. Her husband’s family had a lot of power and money and they would kill her there,” according the the family member.
Rona wanted a divorce from Shafia, according to her sister testifying at the trial and had confided in her a conversation that Rona had overheard between Shafia, Tooba and Hamed discussing a plan to kill at least one family member.
As in life, Rona was constantly in the backseat and castigated or left out. Ironically in death, her body was positioned in the back seat of the submerged Sentra. She was 53.
Zainab, 19 years old was the oldest of seven children born to Mohammad Shafia and his second wife, Tooba. Like many teens, she enjoyed pop music, liked fashion and nice clothes and loved her cellphone. Dressing up, sometimes provocatively and posing for self-portraits some of which were found on her phone in the submerged Nissan Sentra. Home was strict, dating boys was forbidden. Enforced loyally by her brother Hamed while her father was away on numerous business trips overseas. Zainab would go so far as to warn a young man about her brother and ways in which to avoid his scrutiny. “if my bro is around act like a complete stranger”, she warned. Hamed discovered the relationship about a month later and strict orders were given to Zainab to end the friendship. They went so far as to keep her from going to school for nearly a year and later was allowed to go to nigh school courses at another school accompanied by her brother Hamed.
Zainab arranged to meet the young man a year later in the hopes of rekindling their relationship. Meeting secretly at a nearby library and the occasional restaurant; Zainab invited him over one day to the house when her parents were out of the country. He was discovered by Hamed when he came home unexpectedly. The shaky trust that had been built between the parents and Zainab was now completely gone and she was subjected to further harsh treatment and more stringent rules as well as alleged physical abuse at the hands of her brother.
In April, she ran away and took refuge in a Montreal women’s shelter cutting off contact with her family. Refusing to meet with them, she finally agreed to meet with her mother for discussion. Tooba agreed to allow Zainab to marry her young man despite the fact that he was Pakistani and not acceptable so long as she returned home. Tooba allegedly claimed at this time that she too would leave the abusive family home with her children if Zainab were to come home.
Zainab entered into a Muslim marriage officiated by a mullah on May 18, when the elder Shafia was out of country. As an Islamic rite, the marriage needed to be officially registered under Quebec law. The marriage was annulled. Upon finding out about the marriage, Shafia, still in Dubai called his daughter a “whore” and a “black snake”. “She is dirty. She is a curse to me. She is a dirty woman.”
She was a rebellious and disobedient teen raised with unrealistic expectations and a short. tight leash. Any normal teen would rebel against the unfairness of the situation. As in any civilized country, the punishment should fit the crime. Her punishment was death at the hands of her family; a price by far too high.
Sahar, 17 years old, was the second oldest of the girls born to Tooba and Mohammad. She was also given away when she was 40 days old to her “second mom” Rona as a gift by Tooba to her barren co-spouse. Said to be favourite of her father, she had spoken of becoming a gynecologist, having been spurred by the poor health and medical circumstances of women in her native Afghanistan. His favourite until he was made aware of her treachery. Sahar, relating tales of abuse in the family to teachers, keeping a secret and forbidden boyfriend and changing into unapproved clothes when she left the house in the morning had overstepped her father’s strict rules.
Hamed, having discovered a photograph of Sahar wearing lingerie, was believed to have shown his father on a trip he took to Dubai a month before the family members were killed.
Sahar, having found love shortly before her death with a boy who was neither Afghan or Muslim and completely unacceptable. They planned an elopement and a move to Honduras to seek refuge with his family. She withheld this information from her parents for a time when they returned from their vacation. She never had the chance. Her body was found with the others in the Nissan Sentra.
Teachers voiced concerns at the trial over Sahar’s absence from school and her problems she was experiencing at home. Her French teacher, when testifying, said that the teen suffered from chronic melancholy and distress from the situation in her home. On different occasions, as a punishment, her family members had been given directions not to speak with her. They, in fact, shunned her as punishment.
There was continual friction between Tooba and Sahar over donning the hijab. Sahar refused to wear the garb and in particular did not want to wear it at school. Upset and troubled, Sahar attempted suicide upsetting Rona terribly. Tooba, her biological mother, on the other hand said “She can go to hell. Let her kill herself.”
Her sentence for her disobedience was a death in the cold depths of the Kingston Mills lock with her beloved sisters and the only mother who cared for her.
Geeti, 13 years old. A life cut short because the family knew that she could and would speak out about the abuses and circumstances of their family life. The youngest of the three sisters to die on that fateful day, she was the most adamant about leaving the troubled family situation. She dreamed of the day when her beloved Sahar would leave their home for a home of her own and take Geeti with her.
According to many accounts, Geeti was defiant where authority was concerned. She was a handful; coming home late, skipping school, discipline issues, shoplifting and failing classes. What the other siblings lacked in resolve where exposing their parents was concerned; Geeti did not. She was strong and as such, a tremendous threat to her parent’s tenuous hold on their “honour” and strict family values. She was the one who would have, by all accounts, not been fearful of blowing the whistle with authorities on the dysfunctional family unit.
Geeti once told a detective she wanted out of the house and moved into a foster family because of the lack of freedom and hinted at physical abuse. The detective, believed that there was enough to support a charge of abuse, however the final decision was left to the child welfare authorities. Upon investigating, they closed the case. The detective could not find enough evidence to file charges.
She and Sahar often discussed moving away and getting a place together.
Geeti wrote her beloved Sahar one day. “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. Best sisters.
Today, they are together forever; lives and dreams cut short by deaths too young.