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Shafia’s relatives endorse honour-killings: Report
KINGSTON, Ont. — One of Tooba Mohammad Yahya’s sisters and her husband fully endorse the notion of honour-killing.
The startling revelation is contained in a Saturday story in Montreal’s La Presse, written by columnist Michele Ouimet, who interviewed the couple in Kabul two months ago.
As news of the story rocketed about the near-empty Kingston courthouse where jurors in the notorious Shafia murder trial are deliberating, the jurors were completing their first full day of work.
They retired late Friday, and have now spent more than 11 hours in their jury room. They are sequestered, always accompanied by two court constables, kept away from radio, TV, newspaper and web reports of any kind and stay overnight as a group at a local hotel.
Ouimet’s front-page story was headlined: “Perdre filles, et avoir peche trois fois”, a quote from Yahya herself.
It translates in English as, “to lose three daughters and have sinned three times.”
The reporter had facilitated a call between the two long-lost sisters, and when Soraya said she hoped she’d soon be out of jail, Yahya told her, “Yes my sister, there are problems. To lose three daughters and have sinned three times.”
Asked directly if she would kill for honour, Soraya replied yes, and said if the deed was sufficiently odious, the punishment is elimination.
Her husband Habibullah, who was sitting in a corner and not participating in the women’s discussion, at the mention of honour piped up. If his daughters — the couple has seven, and two boys — dishonoured his family, he wouldn’t hesitate, he told Ouimet.
“I would put them in a bag and eliminate them so no one would ever find their traces in Afghanistan,” he said.
Ouimet noted that some of the daughters were present, and quiet, when their father said that.
The scenario fits in squarely with what the prosecution’s so-called cultural expert, Dr. Shahrzad Mojab, testified to at trial.
“There’s no serious debate about the phenomenon (of honour-killing), but on its forms, how to name it and how to deal with it,” she told the jurors.
And overt threatening by fathers or other male relatives is common in such patriarchal cultures is part of how women’s compliance with the cultural rules is monitored, she said.
Both the 42-year-old Yahya and her 58-year-old husband Mohammad Shafia, who testified at trial, flatly denied ever hearing of honour killing before, as Yahya said with righteous indignation, “they put this name on our case.”
Two of Shafia’s siblings also testified, and both said they too had never heard of honour crimes.
Yahya’s remark to her sister would sound like an admission only to someone who didn’t see her in the witness stand, where for six days she came up with one imaginative explanation after another for incriminating things she either told police or said in wiretapped conversations with her husband.
The parents and their 21-year-old son Hamed are pleading not guilty to four counts each of first-degree murder.
Found in a submerged black Nissan on June 30, 2009, at the bottom of the Kingston Mills locks were Shafia daughters Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, then respectively 19, 17 and 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, Shafia’s secret other wife.
Rona Mohammad, who was 52, was brought to Canada months after the rest of the family arrived in June of 2007, and came into the country as a domestic servant on a visitor’s visa.
As she seemed to have been an inconsequential presence in the Shafia house, so was she not mentioned by Yahya in the La Presse story.
Prosecutors allege the deaths were a mass honour killing disguised as a car accident; defence lawyers say it was simply a tragic accident.