Blog Post

Woman Strangled for Giving Birth to Girl Instead of Boy

The past week has seen two examples of the horrifying atrocities committed against Afghan women with news that a 22 year-old Afghan woman was strangled by her husband for giving birth to a girl instead of a boy, and Afghan immigrants in Canada were convicted of murdering three teens and a former wife because they had become too westernized.

  Fox News is reporting that a woman known only as Estorai was found strangled to death in her home in Khanabad, Afghanistan by a neighbor. Family members say she had warned them that her husband, Sher Mohammad, was angry that she gave birth to a daughter instead of son and told her that if it happened again, he would kill her. Apparently, he made good on his threat, and, shortly after she gave birth to another daughter, killed her then fled the area.

 Police took the man's mother into custody on suspicion that she collaborated in the plot to kill her daughter-in-law. Provincial women's affairs chief Nadira Ghya, who traveled to Khanabad to deal with the case, visited the woman in jail who told her that Estorai committed suicide by hanging. However, police have found no rope and no evidence of hanging from the woman's wounds.

In the Afghan culture, boy babies are prized because a son means a breadwinner whereas girls are seen as a drain on the family until she can be married off. However, even if Sher Mohammad is found guilty of the crime, it would be rare even in this grossly misogynistic culture for a man to kill his wife over the gender of a baby.

Unfortunately, immigrants bring these cultural traditions with them to other parts of the world which is what brought about the conviction of an Afghan man, his son and one of his wives this week in Canada for the so-called "honor killing" of his three daughters and one of his wives. A jury took only 15 hours to convict Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's childless first wife. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence in Canada with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The bodies of the women were found June 30, 2009, in a submerged car in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, where the family had stopped on their way home to Montreal from a trip to Niagara Falls. Prosecutors said Shafia and his accomplices drowned their victims elsewhere, then placed the bodies in a car and pushed it into the canal to make it look like an accident.

The crime was committed because Shafia believed the girls were dishonoring the family by defying rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger said the evidence clearly supported the conviction and gave all three defendants the maximum sentence.

"It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honorless crime," Maranger told the three at the time of their conviction. "The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor ... that has absolutely no place in any civilized society."

The plight of women in Afghanistan at the hands of men has been well-documented. Even though great strides have been made since the Taliban was ousted from power 10 years ago, such as allowing women to attend school, work in offices and sometimes march in protest, the planned withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014 has raised the question of how much of a setback this will cause upon the severely repressed women in this country.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement Monday praising the Afghan government for recent declarations supporting women's rights in the wake of the latest abuse cases that have garnered so much media attention.

"The rights of women cannot be relegated to the margins of international affairs, as this issue is at the core of our national security and the security of people everywhere," the statement said.

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