North American Honour Killings Go Beyond Mere Homicide

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The Huffington Post
10/24/2011

Horrific details of an alleged mass honour killing emerged in a crowded Ontario courtroom last week: Three young sisters and their polygamous father’s first wife were murdered in the name of religious purity, according to the Crown prosecutor: A staged car accident, plotted and executed, allegedly by the father, mother and brother of 19-year-old Zainab, 17-year-old Sahar, and 13-year-old Gheeti Shafia, whose reportedly brazen refusal to comply with the traditions imposed on Afghan females so polluted the family’s honour that only death could remove its taint. In the chilling words of the girls’ father, Mohammad Shafia, “They betrayed Islam” by consorting with boys, posing seductively for cell phone photographs, and refusing to wear the hijab. “God’s curse on them for generations. May the devil (expletive) on their graves. Is that what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?”

According to the Crown, prior to their deaths, the girls repeatedly sought help from law enforcement and professional service providers, but their cries for help ultimately went unmet.

In Western consciousness, honour killings are most frequently associated with poor, developing countries where women are granted few, if any, social and political rights. Yet this alleged quadruple homicide — apparently the violent manifestation of a deep-seated cultural and religious misogyny, according to the Crown — took place far from the Shafia family’s native Afghanistan. The bodies of Mr. Shafia’s 50-year-old wife, Rona, and his three spirited daughters were found near Kingston, Ontario, floating inside a submerged vehicle in the Rideau Canal.

Mr. Shafia, 58, now faces four counts of first degree murder, along with his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and the pair’s 20-year-old son Hamed Shafia…

…The experiences of the Shafia sisters are becoming all too familiar. A recent spate of honour violence perpetrated in the United States exemplifies the tragic incompatibility between Western liberties and radical Islam. Yet despite increased awareness of these issues, honour crimes remain widely under-reported. Currently, there is no clear picture of the rate at which women fall victim to honour violence, let alone the number of women who submit to the demands of male family members in fear of such violence. Early information gathered from service providers in key states indicates that the problem is more widespread than previously imagined.

Absent specific awareness and training, police officers, crisis centers and social workers are likely ill-equipped to deal with these issues. Although honour violence shares several traits with domestic violence and child abuse, its unique cultural features warrant a specialized approach from social service providers and law enforcement officials. Reported threats of honour violence must be taken seriously. The risks faced by women seeking protection from the state must not be ignored…

The entire article at The Huffington Post.

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