Written by Susan W. Smith
posted on November 13, 2012 07:27
If you were listening to the radio in the Thousand Islands, on the morning of June 20, 2009 you would have heard that a car was found submerged in the Kingston Mills lock, only 7.5 kilometers (5 miles) north of Kingston, Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. By day’s end, people were shocked to learn that the car was the watery grave of four women from Montreal Zainab(18), Sahar(17), Geeti (13), and Rona (50).
Events in the early hours of June 30 became the responsibility of the Kingston Police Force and eventually lawyers, a jury and a judge.
Concern expressed by teachers, friends, and family members from Montreal, and Afghanistan, led to the appalling explanation that honour killings had taken place. On July 22, the girl’s parents, and brother, were arrested. The mother (Tooba Mohammad Yahya) , the father (Mohammad Shafia), and their son (Hamed,18), were charged with four counts of murder – the three daughters and Rona, Mohammed’s first wife.
“Honour Killing” is used to describe killings when a victim has brought perceived shame or dishonor to a family or community. The Crown made a point to explain this concept throughout the trial.
In September 2012 local Kingston author, Paul Schliesmann, a reporter for the Kingston Whig Standard launch his book Honour on Trial: The Shafia Murders and the Culture of Honour Killings. A book that details exactly what the jury heard each day in the courtroom and more.
Radio talk shows and Canadian book award judges soon recognized the value of Schliesmann’s work for he not only describes what led to the parent’s decision, it takes us though the month-long investigation by the Kingston Police Force which did a thorough, and first-rate job. His book not only rivals any episode of “Law and Order” or “CSI”, it surpasses the expectation of readers of the true-crime genre.
In his introduction he writes, “The media is ravenous beast and, in the Internet age, never sleep. It is not unusual for me to start the day by giving a radio report from home, a telephone update for television somewhere along the road to the courthouse, then spend the morning listening to testimony, typing out a lunchtime hit for the Web, hearing more testimony in the afternoon, and then writing a 1,500-word story for the next day’s edition.”
The three-month trial ended Sunday January 29, 2012 when the jury found the Shafia family members guilty of first-degree murder - first degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without a possibility of parole for 25 years.
In his last chapter, Schliesmann writes, “Mohammad Tooba, and Hamid have appealed their conviction. Occasionally, a small bouquet of flowers will appear near the side of the lock at Kingston mills where the black Nissan plunged into the waters of the Rideau Canal and four women lot their lives. They are gone but not forgotten. A women’s shelter in Kingston is working to install a plaque at the lock station to remember them. The Kingston branch of Canadians for Women in Afghanistan, which fundraises for education projects in that country, announced a special education grant created in the names of Rona, Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti…”
Schleismann’s book makes us stop and consider more than just an investigation, a trial and a summation, it makes us realize that murder is not justified under any circumstances and that Honour Killing is an oxymoron.
By Susan W. Smith, email@example.com
Honour on Trial: The Shafia Murders and the Culture of Honour Killings by Paul Schliesmann, is published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. ISBN 978-1-55455-278-8. 2012 visit www.fitzhenry.ca for more information. It is available in local Kingston book shops and on Amazon.ca: Honour on Trial