Family not surprised at deaths of relative, 3 siblings
Montreal businessman Mohammad Shafia, accused of killing three daughters and the first of his two wives, was alternately portrayed Friday as a devoted entrepreneur but also a controlling and abusive man who repeatedly clashed with his eldest girl.
The brother of Rona Amir Mohammad, who is allegedly Mohammad's first wife, told CTV Montreal the quadruple murder doesn't surprise him and that the killings were planned well in advance.
The brother, Wali Abdali, said Mohammad Shafia and his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, objected to their now-deceased daughter Zainab's relationship with a young Pakistani man.
"The parents of this girl did not want her to marry a Pakistani boy who didn't have any money," Abdali said in a telephone interview from France on Friday.
Abdali and sister Diba Masoomi, who also lives in France, both said Mohammad was controlling and that his son Hamid hit his sisters on many occasions.
Abdali added there was tension in the family's St. Leonard home because Shafia and his two spouses lived under the same roof.
"They [the wives] didn't have a good relationship. The other woman didn't want my sister to stay in the house with them."
Tooba reportedly married into the family when Rona found she could not have children. Mohammad had apparently been passing Rona off as a cousin.
Mohammad Shafia, 56, wife Tooba, 39, and 18-year-old son Hamed were arrested Wednesday and charged in Kingston, Ont. with first-degree murder as well as conspiracy in a plot police say was hatched months ago.
The bodies of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti Shafia, 13, and stepmother Rona, 52, were found on June 30 in a car submerged in the Kingston Mills locks.
Police said at a press conference on Thursday they now believe the car had been driven by a combination of the three accused prior to its plunge into the water. Police have not said if the victims drowned or if they were killed prior to entering the water.
Police said there are cultural issues involved in the case, but did not discuss "honour killings."
Defends the father
But another relative painted a different picture of the killings in an interview with the Toronto Star.
Zarmina Fazel, the aunt of the dead girls's mother, has said the four victims died as part of a suicide bid by Zainab.
"Zainab was not normal," Fazel told the Star.
She defended both parents, saying that father Mohammad is "a very honest man" and that the teens's mother was "not that kind of person."
Other family members on Friday insisted that Mohammad Shafia was a determined entrepreneur who immigrated to Canada from Afghanistan to make a better life for himself and his family.
Fazel said Shafia was a multimillionaire who owned at least three businesses and recently purchased a strip mall in Laval worth $2 million.
Shafia was also building a luxurious home in a gated community in south-shore Brossard.
Meanwhile, the murders and reports that they might have been honour killings are causing concern among Montreal's Afghan community and Muslim groups across Canada.
Mohamed Kamel of the Canadian Muslim Forum told CTV Montreal that honor killings are a sad reality but not a religious one.
"There are many [Sharia] texts stating the punishment of crimes and [they're] usually linked with the authority of the courts to make the punishment."
Ihsaan Gardee, spokesman from the Canadian chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the term "honour killing" is troublesome.
The term has been used to describe other high-profile cases in Canada, including the 2007 death of Toronto teenager Aqsa Parvez, who was allegedly killed by her father and brother after she refused to wear the traditional Muslim headscarf.
But Gardee said using the phrase sends the message that "the killing of women and children is the exclusive monopoly of any one faith or culture or ethnicity."