It’s a revelation that Shahrzad Mojab can’t get over: Geeti Shafia, one of the four women killed by Mohammad Shafia, Tooba Mohammad Yahya and Hamed Shafia, had feared for her safety so much she told a police detective she wanted to be put in foster care.
Without enough evidence to justify a charge against her family, she remained at home. Months later, she, two of her sisters and her aunt were dead.
“These women were aware of the threat on their lives and they reached out but nobody listened,” said Dr. Mojab, a University of Toronto professor and editor of Violence in the Name of Honour: Theoretical and Political Challenges who was an expert witness at the months-long trial.
She testified that honour killings, while falling under the umbrella of violence against women, must be treated with special care by communities.
They’re about patriarchal control that goes beyond typical parent-teenager disagreements, she said, and police, social workers and teachers must recognize signs of this kind of abuse.
The U.K. and Sweden have emerged as leaders in developing strategies for dealing with this type of violence. Training materials, such as video clips showing abuse scenarios, have been used extensively with police forces and in schools. It’s time they were widely adopted in Canada, she said.
The Shafia girls turned to neighbours, school authorities and police to report troubles at home.
To separate common parent-child dysfunction from truly grave situations, community members can look for signs of abuse, she said. Bruises, weight loss, slipping grades, school absences and poor performance at work “are all indicators that something is happening with these women,” Dr. Mojab said.
Depression and extreme forms of rebellion are also common.
“We need to look at these warning signs and put all the dots together and put together a better protection plan,” she said.