July 23, 2009
Rona Amir Mohammed’s sister, Diba Masoomi, said: “We are convinced that this is a crime of honour.” We learn here that “the teenage girls dressed in modern fashion,” which may have been part of the problem.
Pamela has been following this strange and terrible story very closely, and has photos and much more information here.
“Family held in canal deaths,” by Andrew Chung for the Toronto Star, July 23 (thanks to all who sent this in):
MONTREAL–Police are investigating the death of three sisters found in their car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal in Kingston three weeks ago as a possible “honour” killing.
Three suspects arrested Wednesday in Montreal on their way to the airport, possibly to flee the country, are believed to the sisters’ father, Mohammed Shafi, his wife, and his 18-year-old son, the La Presse newspaper reported.
Kingston police have scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. where Police Chief Stephen Tanner will outline the details of a major change in focus of the investigation. Up to now, police have only gone so far as to call the deaths “suspicious.”
The Shafi sisters – Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17 and Geeti, 13 – died along with their aunt, Rona Amir Mohammed, on June 30. The family was returning from a trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto when they stopped for the night at a motel in Kingston.
The car was found that morning, submerged in the Rideau Canal, the bodies of the victims inside.
Officially, Kingston police would only say yesterday there had been a “change in the status” of the investigation based on “what’s happened in the last 24 hours.”
“It was a suspicious death and that has been changed,” said Kingston police spokesman Const. Mike Menor. “We’re not saying what that is.”
However, Kingston Police have been investigating for the last two weeks the allegation the deaths were an honour killing, police sources told the Kingston Whig Standard.
Kingston Police apparently received information that Rona Amir Mohammed is actually the first wife of Mohammed Shafi, that the couple had married in Kabul 30 years ago, and the marriage had been kept secret since their arrival in Canada.
The information came from Rona Amir Mohammed’s sister, Diba Masoomi, who lives in France. Masoomi also sent along a photo, claiming it is of the of the couple at their wedding. “We are convinced that this is a crime of honour,” Masoomi wrote in an email sent to the police chief’s office roughly two weeks ago.
Masoomi said her sister feared for her life. “For some time, my sister, as well as the Shafi couple’s oldest daughter, Zainab, had been receiving death threats for social, cultural and family reasons,” she wrote.
In the days following the deaths, Shafi, 57, told reporters the dthat [sic] Rona Amir Mohammed was his cousin, and she was always described as the children’s aunt. Tooba Mohammad Yhaya, 37, introduced herself as Shafi’s wife.
Family members speculated to reporters that one of the older sisters, likely Zainab, might have taken the car out to practise driving. They said she was rebellious and had taken the car in the past. However, the circumstances were always uncertain, particularly how the car made it all the way to the water.
The Shafis are not conservative Muslims, a Montreal relative of Yhaya, Said Fazel, told the Star.
The teenage girls dressed in a modern fashion, though reservedly, and did not even wear headscarves, said neighbour Joyce Gilbert, who lives below the family. She described them as “angels.”…
Masoomi told the Kingston newspaper that Rona Amir Mohammed could not have children, and so Shafi took a second wife, a practice not uncommon in Afghani culture. Masoomi said her sister remained with the family and raised the children, even when they moved to Dubai….
“Afghani culture.” Not “Islamic culture.” Certainly not “Islamic law.” And never will you see a story that says that polygamy is “sanctioned by the Qur’an.”