HONOUR KILLINGS: Our second excerpt from new book Without Honour reveals plans for a family home, Zainab’s dilemma

Published: October 28, 2012

The discovery of four female bodies in a submerged car on the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ont., more than three years ago led to one of the most high-profile murder trials in Canadian history. Last year, the Shafia family trial cast a spotlight on honour killings in this country as the public struggled to come to terms with what led to the death of teenage sisters Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad. In his new book, Without Honour, Rob Tripp reveals new details about the case and the tragic story behind it.

The luxurious 6,000-square-foot home that Mohammad Shafia was building in Brossard, an exclusive suburb southeast of the Island of Montreal, as it appeared, partly completed, in September 2011. Submitted photo


Architect Nabi Neda was finally able to convince Mohammad Shafia, in the first week of April 2009, to sign off on the blueprints for the house in the Montreal suburb of Brossard. The plans had been altered more than half a dozen times because of Shafia’s tinkering. He added rooms, changed the layout and enlarged the house until it was roughly 6,000 square feet, three times the size of the typical Canadian home. A sweeping spiral staircase led from the main floor to a grand upper level, where four of the six bedrooms were located. There were five bathrooms.

Shafia had fretted about the bedrooms. He had talked to Neda about where each person would sleep. The house was big enough that the woman Shafia had described as his cousin could live with them.

On the second floor, there was a spacious master bedroom and spa-like ensuite bathroom that featured a large corner tub, a separate shower and two sinks. At the opposite end of the second floor was an identical master suite. When Neda asked Shafia why he needed two master bedrooms, Shafia told him that his daughter Zainab might soon marry and perhaps she’d live with them.

While Neda worked on the plans, his wife continued to badger him to end his relationship with Shafia.

“You’re making yourself sick from the stress and all the work,” she complained. She reminded him that Shafia was wealthy, he was cheap and had never paid Neda for the value of his work. When he had begun the house project in 2007, Shafia paid him $2,500 a month, a meagre salary for an experienced architect. Shafia kept adding to Neda’s responsibilities, imposing additional duties without boosting his pay, while promising that it would all be worth it.

“Come with me and we’ll do business together and you will be rich,” Shafia had told him. “You will be very rich.”

Shafia had many schemes to make money. He talked of acquiring property to open a car lot, and had already proven himself adept at buying damaged vehicles from the United States through online auctions. The vehicles were shipped to Dubai, repaired and resold. Shafia wanted Neda to help him expand his empire. Neda could speak French and some English, and he could help Shafia navigate Canadian bureaucracies. Most of all, Shafia trusted him because he was an Afghan.

Despite his wife’s protestation that he wasn’t a businessman, Neda had agreed to go with Shafia to the mammoth Canton trade fair in Guangzhou, China, in the fall of 2008, where Shafia looked for goods that he could buy cheaply and ship to Canada. Shafia found shoddily made athletic shoes that he could buy by the dozen for eight to ten dollars a pair. In Canada, he could resell them at a substantial profit. Shafia also looked for Chinese-made construction materials that would mimic fine finishes at lower cost. He had told Neda about his bigger plans: The house in Brossard was an experiment, a test case. Shafia wanted to see how cheaply he could build a big, ornate home. If the experiment went smoothly, he hoped to move into the homebuilding business, which he figured would make him much richer.

Neda told his wife that the more he came to know Shafia, the better he understood that their personalities were not a good fit. Shafia was a man obsessed with money. Despite the greater fortune Shafia saw on the horizon, Neda was struck by his tight-fistedness. He insisted on staying in budget hotels and eating cheap meals. During the China trip, Neda paid for a good restaurant meal for the two men because Shafia thought it was too expensive.

There was a more reasonable explanation for the design of a new house with two master bedrooms. Shafia was a man who felt bound by tradition. Custom dictated that as long as he had two wives, he must treat them equally. To do less would be shameful. When Neda later learned that Rona was Shafia’s wife, he concluded that the second bedroom was for her.

Tooba — Shafia’s second wife — had made clear, from the moment Rona arrived in Canada, that she wanted her co-wife out of the family. The house design would have undermined her plans, if she had seen it. But Tooba seemed certain that Rona would never recapture a position of spousal equality. She taunted Rona about the new house: “It’s a palace and you are not going to enter and live there.”

Zainab (far right) with other Top Girls inside Dubais Al Sadiq Islamic English School in 2007. At left is Fatma Kassim and second from left is Zubaida Siddique, girls whom Zainab considered like sisters. She cherished their friendship and stayed in touch after her family moved to Canada. Submitted photo

Shafia’s eagerness to build his palatial new home evaporated two weeks after the plans were finalized. A calamity that he should have foreseen plunged the household into chaos and set Shafia off on an angry crusade. On April 17, Zainab fled the house, leaving behind a note that explained she would not return, ever. She called her boyfriend, Ammar Wahid, on his cellphone, early that Friday morning.

“Ammar, I want to leave my house, now,” Zainab said. She was home alone, and it was the perfect time to slip away unnoticed. It wasn’t the first time she had told Ammar she wanted to escape her domineering father, who was trying to force her into an arranged marriage with a relative.

“Why do you want to leave now?” Ammar asked her.

“You know I don’t have enough freedom and my parents are forcing me to get married to a guy I don’t want to. I want to go to English school and they’re sending me to a French school. I hardly go to the school ’cause I don’t like French and I don’t want to be in a French school. You come and take me, now.”

“Listen, I’m not independent yet,” he reminded her. “I don’t have my own place.”

“If you don’t come, I’m gonna leave on my own.”

Ammar was afraid for her, but he knew he wasn’t equipped to support her. He didn’t have a job and he hadn’t completed his high school credits. He was still living at home with his parents. Zainab was an adult and entitled to do as she pleased, but she was naive and had led a sheltered life. She’d never make it on her own, he knew. But he could hear the desperation in her voice and feared she’d make good on the threat to strike out on her own.

“Okay, okay,” Ammar told her. “Give me time to borrow a car and I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

The pair had been seeing each other secretly again for two months, despite their tearful breakup and the punishment Zainab had faced after they were caught in the house in March 2008. Banished to her room and removed from school, Zainab had endured months of isolation. Throughout that period, she’d continued to send Ammar occasional emails. She believed their romance could be rekindled. Whenever she could snatch a moment at a computer with no one around, she would send him a message. She dispatched brief and unremarkable updates on her life that always included the paean that she missed him deeply and the pledge that she would find a way to see him again.

He replied that he wanted to see her again too.

Excerpt from Without Honour published in the English language in Canada by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Copyright (c) 2012 by Rob Tripp. All rights reserved.

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browngirl says:

Wow, Im sure this article wasnt suppose to be any racial debates but the tragic loss of those lives. It doesnt matter if you’re indian, paki, white, black, asian, etc. we’re all the same and do the same old crap.

Pete says:

You haven’t said anything worthwhile except racially insulting white people. All my replies to you have either been ignored but with an insult added.

But you are very defensive and if it makes you feel better then that’s fine.

Parhar says:

Jeff, maybe others don’t care if I respect them. But their opinions are irrelevant to me, so why bother saying that?

gary says:

hahaha hey jeff arent the jail cells full of ur ppl? thats wut i thought ur community does 90+% of the crimes anyways lol, 100% of the rape 100% of chil molestation…. ur a fool

mark says:

hahaha hey jeff arent the jail cells full of ur ppl? thats wut i thought ur community does 90+% of the crimes anyways lol, 100% of the rape 100% of chil molestation…. ur a fool

Pete says:

Actually Mark / Gary, 19 of 32 murders / attempted murders in Surrey in 2010-2011 were committed people of South Asian descent or surnames.

So for a community that makes up 31% of the population it accounts for nearly 60% of violent crime.

So again, your random diatribe with poor grammar is ignorant and more importantly, incorrect.

Parhar says:

Sorry Pete, I rebutted your BS claim a while back. Your continued efforts to smear the Indian folk in Canada just keep falling flat.

Ignorance, thy name is… well, whatever your real name is. I’m gonna call you Tinkerbell now… that’s how lil respect I have for you, Tink.

Pete says:

Again, you have nothing useful to add whatsoever. My BS claims have been in the media several times. Please rebutt again . . .

You just sound very defensive which means I’m probably on to something.

Parhar says:

Rebutt? Very well, Tink.

What’s your source? UCR data? Online? Because the last time you made this comment, you claimed it was “blah blah” numbers in Greater Vancouver. Now it’s Surrey. When I did a lil’ online searching, it turns out that NOWHERE was UCR data indicating the ethnicity of the subjects involved released.

At this point, I stop arguing. For many reasons, but the main one is, people that point out the flaws of another race forget very much just how flawed their own community is. Therefore, those persons abrogate the courtesy of being taken seriously.

You say you struck a nerve with me? I don’t know if you did. See, you can’t effect any change here. You have no influence. You fight on the internet, but you haven’t the power to bring about the changes you want to see. So go ahead, Tink. If you were someone who could do something about all your sentiments, I might worry. But you aren’t.

So, continue on, Internet Warrior / Tink.

Gary, do some research before you post… 90% of the crimes are not committed by Caucasians. Also, you don’t know if Jeff is even Caucasian. And that 100% remark is idiocy, I was in an interview with the RCMP once, and they wanted my help in interviewing a Punjabi rape suspect.

Parhar says:

Don’t let Jeff bother ya, Mr. Chiara. He’s been going around, talking smack about brown folk non-stop all day.

Just let him talk. I mean, he’s not gonna do anything, he doesn’t have any real power, influence, means, or the ability to affect the changes he wants in Canada.

Jeff says:

In fact, many of my comments have not seen any useful reply. Most like yourself, just pull the race card. Makes me wonder if I’m close to the truth about these issues. If not, then why not reply intelligently?

Parhar says:

You’re pulling the race card, Tink. You’re accusing this website of constant pandering to South East Asians when you forget that South East Asians are the… wait for it…


You focus on the problems the brown community have, but neglect to mention the problems of whichever community you belong to. If you wonder why my articulate, well-reasoned comments smack of condescension to you, here’s the deal, Tinkerbell: I don’t respect you.

Jeff says:

I’m not calling anyone here racist – so I’m not pulling the race card. You are saying anyone comments on someone else’s race is automatically a racist?

If you are talking about target audience, then the Province need not report on any SE Asian etc etc issues? Why do minorities want their own media AND they demand representation in the mainstream?

What is tinkerbell supposed to mean?

Parhar says:

You’re complaining that Amanda Todd is not getting any coverage due to her ethnicity. Automatically, you pulleth the race card, Tink.

Here’s the deal. I don’t respect bigoted folk.

I know bigoted Asian folk, and I call them out hard and to their face.

I’ve known Japanese bigots, who feel they are superior to the West, and I’ve asked them why, given their “superiority”, they lost in WW2.

I’ve known Punjabi bigots who claim that we should run this country, so I ask them why we aren’t… instead, the males are too busy goofing off in school and getting into troubles a’transpirin’.

You get the picture? If you are bigoted, I have no respect for you. Don’t much matter what color yer skin is.

If The Province was targeted to a Caucasian audience only, then it should not report on SE Asian issues. By & large, it’s mainly Caucasian issues. And that’s fine. The mainstream audience there is Caucasian people.

BTW, just so you know, the Vancouver Sun has a Chinese-only site. I imagine you’re going to go there and question why their content is geared to their target audience?

Jeff says:

I don’t think anyone cares if you respect them or not . . .

But I’m glad you made that statement. I agree with you – there are bad apples everywhere. But there are also values that perpetuate societies that are undesirable in our country.

Pete says:

You ignore the replies that you can’t explain and then just insult.

Yo usay you don’t insult, then call me tinkerbell. Is that a sexual orientation comment? Maybe you are showing your true colours?

Parhar says:

Watch “Scrubs”, I’m a big fan of Dr. Cox. So yeah, there are my true colors 😉

I’ve dismantled all your arguments. I’m done here 😀

Chiara says:

Jeff – you are a fool. This is NOT the Indo-Canadian community – Indo = India.

This is a case of a Middle Eastern family.

Pete says:

It happens with Indo Canadians too!

From the Hindustan times, Oct. 28/12 “The father of Indu Sharma, a management student who was allegedly killed by her family on Friday night for marrying outside her caste and against the wishes of her parents,”

I think you owe Jeff an apology.

Parhar says:

Sorry, but domestic violence isn’t the domain of brown folk only, Tinkerbell (aka Pete). Mr. Chiara, ignore Jeff & Pete. They’re them tobacco chewing redneck types that hitch their thumbs on their suspenders, drink some moonshine with cousin Cletus and reminisce about them good ol’ days when what them brown folk weren’t causing all sorts of tarnation in Canada, hyuk hyuk.

Pete says:

No it isn’t ONLY the domain of the brown folk. But I’m glad you admitted it is part of “brown folk.”

All you do is insult. You aren’t adding anything just denying and then insulting.

In fact you have added more insulting racial stereotypes here than anyone esle. So you would be the racist one.

Parhar says:

You may say what you wish, Tinkerbell.

I don’t insult. But, you are permitted your opinion. It’s irrelevant, but go ahead.

I’m done with you. I’ve more than called you out and kept you inline, but at a certain point, you’re not worth my effort, nor my respect.

Again, do your very worst :) this is how little you concern me.


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