Canadian Patriotic Society presents:
Thursday, October 9, 2014
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Agincourt Public Library Meeting Room
Dedicated to the girls and women who were murdered for trying to live their own lives
1. O Canada
2. Welcome and introduction
3. Film “Honor Diaries”
——– B R E A K ———
4. Speaker 1: Sayeh Hassan
5. Speaker 2: Athar Khan
6. Speaker 3: Jonathan Halevi
7. Video message from Homa Arjomand
8. Q & A/Panel Discussion
Sayeh Hassan: Sayeh is a criminal defense lawyer based in Toronto and a pro-democracy activist fighting for regime change in Iran. Born in Tehran, Iran, she was forced to flee her homeland with her family at the age of 7 to Turkey, where they lived for 5 years as refugees, before moving to Canada.
Sayeh co-founded a pro-democracy association while at university. She has spoken at various conferences both in Canada and the US, and her articles have appeared in both English and Persian media, including the National Post and the Toronto Star among others. She has her own blog: shiro-khorshid-forever.blogspot.com.
Athar Khan: Born in Pakistan, Athar came to Canada with his family when he was 8. As a teenager,
influenced by a friend, he became a devout salafi Muslim for a period of time. While in university enrolled in Islamic courses, Athar developed a more critical stance towards Islam.
As an outspoken political commentator, Athar has made regular guest appearance on SunNews TV. For the last 3 years he has been on the Toronto police Muslim consultative committee.
Jonathan Halevi: Jonathan is the Founder and director of the Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Analysis (CCIA), a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a co- founder of the Orient
Research Group Ltd., a former adviser to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a retired IDF intelligence officer (Lt. Col.) As a security and intelligence expert, Jonathan is regularly consulted by government agencies as well as media.
Homa Arjomand: Homa is an Iranian-born political activist now based in Canada. She is a well known leading force to stop Sharia Court in Canada. While working full time for women and girls at risk, Homa has led other numerous human rights
and pro-secular and pro-democracy
campaigns. Among them: Stop Polygamy; Stop Honor Killing; International campaign to close down Iranian embassies and Campaign for One Secular School in Ontario. She is the founder of the Cultural Bridges Association. Homa has received numerous awards in recognition of her tireless efforts and achievements, including Humanist of The Year Award (2006) and Ruby Award (2014).
After the screening, the panelists made presentations about the issued raised in the documentary.
Homa Arjomand (presented through a recorded message):
Panel discussion of the three speakers (moderated by Sharon Isac):
Victims of honor killings:
On June 30, 2009 around 9 a.m., in Kingston, Ontario, the Shafia sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, were discovered dead inside a car in a lock of the Rideau Canal. Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti were daughters of Mohammad Shafia, 58 and his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41. The couple also had a son Hamed, 20, and three younger children. Rona, who had no children, was the first wife of Mohammad Shafia in a polygamous household.
The Shafia family were from Afghanistan. Mohammad and Rona were married about 1979, but Rona was unable to have children. In 1989, Mohammad married his second wife, Tooba, who eventually gave birth to seven children. The family moved to Pakistan in 1992, then to Australia, and then United Arab Emirates, where Mohammad Shafia made a fortune in real estate. They immigrated to Canada in 2007 and settled in a suburb of Montreal.
Rona took an active role in raising the children. She kept a diary, discovered after her death, in which she described what her life was like in the Shafia household. Trapped in an abusive, loveless marriage, she tried in vain to convince her husband to grant her a divorce. Tooba, the second wife, said to Rona, “You are a slave, you are a servant.” Described as an aunt, Rona came to Canada on a visitor’s visa as a domestic servant and the visa’s renewal was held over her head like an axe by her husband and the second wife. The Shafias held all of her identity documents including her passport, so Rona believed she could not flee the country.
The eldest daughter Zainab’s relationship with a Pakistani boy angered her father, who threatened to kill her. Sahar also had a boyfriend. The youngest sister Geeti was most determined to stand up to the family. She defied authority. She came home late. She was caught shoplifting. She did poorly in school and skipped classes. She was sent home from school for dressing provocatively.
In April, 2009, the three girls asked a stranger to call police. Zainab had run away and the children were terrified of what their father would do. When police arrived, Geeti told them that when they got home late, their father, as well as brother Hamed, struck and threatened them. When their father came home, the children backed down. Child welfare authorities were notified but did nothing.
Geeti repeated the story to a detective at school. She asked to be placed with a foster family because she had no freedom. The detective concluded there was not enough evidence to do anything. A month later, Geeti cried and begged the school principal to be removed from home.
When all four were found dead inside the car in the locks at Kingston Mills, their bodies were floating over the seats, Geeti and Zainab in the front and Rona and Sahar in the back. None of them was wearing a seatbelt. Sahar was also not wearing shoes and Zainab had a sweater on backwards. The car was a Nissan Sentra with a broken taillight, purchased second hand just prior to the family trip.
Police initially treated it as a tragic accident. However, they soon learned that Hamed, who reported the four missing to the police, had also reported an accident with the family Lexus SUV in an empty parking lot early that same morning in Montreal. When police examined both vehicles, they concluded that the Lexus had been used to ram the Nissan into the lock. Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed were charged with four counts each of first-degree murder. The investigation revealed that Hamed played a key role in planning the details of the murder. A wiretapped conversation between Mohammed, Tooba and Hamed also played a part in their conviction and offers a glimpse into their mind set controlled by the tribal honour code. They were convicted in a three-month jury trial in Kingston in 2012.
Media coverage was widespread. The judge simply referred to the act as murder, but the media generally framed it as honour killing. CBC summarized viewers’ comments, which generally agreed with the verdict. CTV said that the trial cast a shadow over Canada’s Islamic community: “Muslims across the country say the [case] shone a light on problematic aspects of their culture, and illuminated new ways to tackle the issues.”
The Globe and Mail published a quote by one of the Crown attorneys: “This jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances. We all think of these four, wonderful women now who died needless deaths. 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.” This quote was severely criticized by Afghan Canadians, who asserted that intolerance towards and violence against women is not just a Canadian but a universal value.
The Montreal Gazette published a column saying that labelling the murders as “honour killing” was a mistake because domestic violence against women is ubiquitous and framing it into a particular category would mean distancing oneself from a crime that is all too common. They said that calling the murders “honour killings” makes it seem that femicide is highly unusual, and that it is confined to specific populations within Canada and specific national cultures or religions in the world at large. They said Canadian statistics proved otherwise. According to StatsCan, from 2000 to 2009, an average of 58 women a year were killed in Canada by spousal violence, and, in that same period, a total of 67 young people were murdered by family members, In contrast, recent estimates say there have been 12 or 13 so-called honour killings in Canada in the last decade. They concluded that “honour killings” were only part of a wider pattern of violence against women.
Maclean’s called the four murders “honouricide”. Writer Michael Friscolanti pointed out that one of the girl’s tombstones has the wrong birthdate: “In life, and in death, they had no voice. No one to save them. No one who even cares enough to fix Geeti’s headstone.”
The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada publicly denounced domestic violence and honour killing as un-Islamic. Thirty-four imams from the Council issued a moral ruling officially condemning honour killings, domestic violence and misogyny as un-Islamic. They said they did this in an effort to counter misinterpretations of the Qur’an. One imam cautioned against associating honour crimes with Islam, calling the actions incompatible with any religion.
The Afghan Embassy condemned the murders, calling them a heinous crime against humanity. They claimed this kind of crime is not part of Afghan or Islamic culture and is not acceptable in any way.
Aqsa was a student of Applewood Heights Secondary School in Mississauga. Her family had come from Pakistan. Aqsa was one of seven children – four boys and three girls. Her father, Muhammad Parvez, was a taxi driver and her mother a homemaker.
On December 10, 2007, Peel Regional Police responded to a 911 call from a man who said he had just killed his daughter. She was taken to hospital and died shortly after. It was later learned that it was her brother Waqas who had strangled her. She was 16.
Aqsa’s best friends Ashley Garbutt and Ebney Mitchell remember her as “energetic” with a nice smile. However, they recall by Grade 11 the spark was gone as the tension at home mounted. Aqsa told her friends that her father had been threatening to kill her, and sometimes she would come to school with bruises.
Aqsa ran away from home twice, once to a youth shelter and another time to a friend’s. She seemed so terrified that she was willing to stay with anyone who might take her in according to her friends. Aqsa’s family then tried to bring her home under false pretences. Her sister delivered her a letter falsely informing her about her father being in an accident. On the day she was murdered, her brother Waqas had offered to help Aqsa move her belongings from home. Within hours of being picked up, Aqsa was dead.
A statement her father made to her mother immediately after the crime was later cited in support of the honour killing theory: “My community will say you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked.”
Aqsa was buried in an unmarked grave at the Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton. The family refused the later offer of a gravestone from American anti-Islam blogger, Pamela Geller.
Aqsa’s death was widely reported and sparked a debate about honour killings. Syed Soharwardy, head imam at the Calgary Islam Centre and president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said family violence was completely against the teachings of Islam. Mohammad Alnudui, vice-chairman of the Canadian Council of imams, called the murder “un-Islamic”.
Muslim Canadian Congress founder Tarek Fatah said the guilty plea is a wake-up call for parents to understand that young women are not the possessions of men. “Muslim leaders who do not call Ms. Parvez’s murder an honour killing are avoiding the real issue,” he said.
Then Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said it’s a particularly pernicious form of murder to kill a member of one’s own family for cultural reasons. “We want to underscore that multiculturalism is not an excuse, or a moral or legal justification, for such barbaric practices. Multiculturalism does not equal cultural relativism.”
Muhammad Parvez was charged with second-degree murder and her brother Waqas with obstructing police. However, six months later Waqas was charged with first-degree murder. In 2010, they both pled guilty to second-degree murder were sentenced to life imprisonment.
From Baloch region in Pakistan, she came to Canada as a little girl. At age 14, she was sent by her father back to Pakistan to study at a madrassa, and a few years later she was forced into an arranged marriage with her first cousin. She came back to Canada to get treatment for her son, who was born with a heart condition.
She lived with her strict religious family in Scarborough, but exchanged her burka for a hijab, enrolled in the Adult Learning Centre to get her high school diploma, and sought escape from her family in managing a Facebook page on Baloch entertainment.
Shaher was forced to sponsor her husband, Abdul Malik Rustam, to come to Canada. He wanted her to take up the burka, keep away from Facebook and give up plans for education. She rebelled and asked her husband for a divorce.
With the help of social services, she got an apartment for herself and her son on Eglinton Avenue East and moved out. Three weeks later her husband strangled her in her bed while her two-year old son watched and screamed. More than 15 hours later, her father discovered his two-year-old grandson alone in the apartment with his daughter’s dead body. She was 21.
Her husband turned himself in to police the next morning and was charged with murder.
Five-year old Farah was murdered by her father, Mohammed Khan and her stepmother, Kaneez Fatima. The family came to Canada from Pakistan in July, 1999, and the little girl was dead four months later.
After murdering her, the parents cut up the body and distributed the pieces in different locations. Her limbs were found in three garbage bags hidden in rocks at a Toronto park, found by a woman who was out walking her dog. Her head was found in another park shortly after the couple was arrested but her torso was never found. Results of an autopsy on the limbs show the girl had severe recent bruises on her legs, indicating physical abuse.
It seems Khan believed she might not be his biological child. On one occasion, he became angry with his daughter when she kept asking him to buy her a $10 set of school photographs. He erupted in a fit of rage, chasing her around their apartment and clubbing her with a rolling pin.
Under interrogation, Khan portrayed himself as a victim whose life was ruined by Farah’s death. At first he claimed that she had committed suicide, cutting her own neck with a knife and wiggling around until she died. Later he confessed and told the story of how, fearful of being caught, he cut the body up and hid the remains.
Khan was convicted of first-degree murder and Fatima of second-degree murder.
The second wife of Peer Khairi, whose first wife was infertile, Randjida gave him six children in their two-wife household in Afghanistan. They moved to India and, after the death of his first wife, to Canada in 2003.
Peer Khairi, an illiterate, unemployed mechanic, was tyrannical. He manipulated her and used his many suicide attempts to get his way. Neither could speak English.
He stormed at her for letting their daughters dress immodestly and for allowing their sons to defy him. Randjida had epilepsy and tuberculosis. Peer had hurt his leg in a car crash, and expressed his ingratitude to her care of him by more angry outbursts. Both were on disability payments. Peer grew increasingly resentful that Randjida was moving towards more Western values.
She did reach out for help. The Afghan Women’s Organization was counselling her on how she could separate. She wanted to leave, but knew she’d be the one blamed. Finally she had enough.
He killed her with a slash to the neck that sliced through to her spine and she drowned in her blood. Yet Peer Khairi at first claimed that he had murdered her in self defence. He complained that Canada gave women too many rights. He was convicted of second-degree murder. He was 65 and Randjida was 53.
Randjida’s six children supported their father. “We all love my father just as we did when we were kids and need our father with us more than ever,” they wrote. Daughter Giti told her father’s preliminary hearing, “If I close my eyes I don’t remember her any more.”
Stabbed to death by her father-in-law, Kamikar Singh Dhillon, in the washroom of their grocery store near Toronto airport.
At 18, Amandeep was a student in India when her parents arranged a marriage for her with Dhillon’s son in Toronto. Her family paid a dowry of $54,000, which was their ticket to being brought to Canada themselves in the future with the Family Reunification Program. The three-day wedding costing $15,000 took place in Punjab when the young couple met for the first time. The groom was not mentally fit. They moved to Mississauga in 2006.
Amandeep worked first in a factory, then in the Dhillion family store, enduring loneliness and isolation. After her son was born, her father-in-law became more oppressive, monitoring any outside contacts she had. Her son was sent back to Punjab to be with her family. She became very anxious for her family to join her and believed their immigration papers had been filed.
Her father-in-law stabbed her in the washroom of the store on New Year’s Day. At first he told the police that masked men had committed the murder in the course of a robbery, but the story collapsed. Dhillion was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He wanted the police to tell the media that he was justified in killing Amandeep because of the imminent disgrace to his family name. He accused her of having an affair with another man and with offering sex to him, but the police could find no evidence of this.
Her family came from India for the funeral, but they did not stay in Canada. Amandeep was 23.
FOLLOW UP FROM THE CANADIAN PATRIOTIC SOCIETY:
Thank you for attending our event on Thursday.
We were pleased to have been able to reach people representing wider segment of our community. The participation of high school seniors was very much appreciated as the topic has special relevance to this age group as majority of potential victims are teens and the cultural literacy as well as sensitivity is required for reaching out to them.
We encourage each participant to take action. Those interested in screening “Honor Diaries” may contact the producers of the film: www.honordiaries.com/ or one of the women activists featured in the film Raheel Raza who is based in Toronto, at Raheel@raheelraza.com.
As promised, I am sending you the video speech by Homa Arjomand. The message was taped a day before she left for Sweden where she met with the Education Minister, and now she is attending the International Secular Conference held in London, UK as a distinguished speakers.
Homa is an Iranian-born political activist now based in Canada. She is a well known leading force to stop Sharia Court in Canada. While working full time for abused women and girls, Homa has led other numerous human rights and pro-secular and pro-democracy campaign.s Among them: Stop Polygamy; stop Honor Killing; international campaign to close down Iranian embassies and campaign for One Secular School in Ontario. She is the founder of the Cultural Bridges Association.
In recognition of her tireless efforts and achievements over many years, she has received numerous awards including Humanist of The Year Award (2006) and Ruby Award (2014).
I believe Homa’s deep conviction and moral clarity comes from real knowledge, understanding and most of all caring that inspires us to action.
On a happy note, we are pleased to see this year’s Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Pakistan’s 17 year-old Malala Yousafzai, along with India’s Kailash Satyarthi. As you know Malala was shot on October 9, 2012 by Taliban for speaking up for girls’ rights to education. She not only survived the attack but, exactly two years later, she thrives even more committed to furthering the rights of all children. (I am also pleased that another freedom fighter is now an honourary Canadian citizen.)
Once again, we like to thank all of our speakers and participants for attending the event. Special thanks to Lev Rachevsky for jumping in the last minute to rescue the evening by providing us with the sound.
Wishing you all Happy Thanksgiving!
for Canadian Patriotic Society
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