Jury Finds Afghan Family Guilty in Honor Killings

Sara J Dufort

While honor killings are tolerated in Middle Eastern countries, a Canadian jury found three members of an Afghan family guilty of first-degree murder. Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya, and their son Hamed, allegedly killed their three teenage sisters and Shafia’s first wife because they dishonored the family by ignoring disciplinary rules on clothing, dating, and socializing.

The sentences that the family members received require an automatic life sentence in Canada, with no chance of parole for 25 years. The defendants continue to maintain their innocence, however, Superior Court Judge, Robert Maranger, argued that the evidence clearly supported the conviction. “It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honor-less crime,” Maranger said. “The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor … that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.”

The case that the prosecution laid out against Shafia, his wife, and son paints the picture of a premeditated murder, which the family staged to look like an accident afterwards. The bodies of the victims were found in a car, submerged underwater in a canal in Kingston, Ontario. The defense on the other hand, tried to argue that the deaths were accidental. They argued that the victims were out joy riding, when it went terribly wrong.

The problem with the defense’s case is that wiretaps and mobile phone records from the household were brought into court where Shafia is heard calling his daughters treacherous whores and invoked the devil to defecate on their graves. “There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this,” Shafia said on one recording. “Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows … nothing is more dear to me than my honor.”

By Shafia’s words, it is clear that he is not sadden by the death of his daughters, and is actually pleased that they are dead. While he never admitted to killing the four victims, his blatant disregard for his daughters and first wife show that there was motive for the crime.

The prosecutor, Gerard Laarhuis, welcomed the verdict. He stated that, “this verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy,” he said to cheers of approval from onlookers. The defense however, was clearly not pleased. Hamed’s attorney says that they will appeal the conviction, and believes that the other two defendant’s will as well.

All three defendants will serve their sentences in Canada, but, if they are released after the 25 years, they will most likely face deportation. “Criminal matters take precedence over immigration matters,” said Jacqueline Roby, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency. “People who commit acts of violence are not welcome in Canada. Our doors aren’t open to criminals, but in every case, we have to wait until the sentences are served.”