Muhammad Parvez, who strangled his 16-year-old daughter Aqsa (inset) to death because of his distorted belief that she had tarnished his family honour, has died in prison. His death comes nearly a decade after the murder that became a flashpoint for a national debate about cultural traditions imported to Canada by newcomers. “I killed my daughter. . . with my hands,” Parvez said, in a 911 call placed minutes after the murder in the Parvez home in Mississauga, Ontario in December 2007. The Parvez case sparked a sustained and furious national debate about the spread of misogynistic and patriarchal practices that put women and girls at risk of violence and death, though there had been many such murders dating back decades before Aqsa’s death. The debate intensified two years after Aqsa’s death, when four members of the Shafia family were murdered in June 2009 in Kingston, Ontario in a mass honour killing – the case that is the focus of my true crime book, Without Honour: The True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders.
Corrections Canada says Muhammad Parvez, 67, was found dead on Feb. 22, 2017. He had been serving time at Beaver Creek Institution in Gravennhurst but he was found dead at a Corrections Canada hospital at Millhaven Institution near Kingston, according to Cancrime sources. He was suffering from cancer. Deaths in custody in Ontario are automatically subject to coroner’s inquests.
Parvez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, along with his son Waqas, in Aqsa’s killing. The father and son were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years. Waqas Parvez remains behind bars.
In an interview with police, Aqsa’s mother said that she asked her husband why he killed their daughter.
“He said, ‘This is my insult. My community will say you have not been able to control your daughter. This is my insult. She is making me naked,’ ” Aqsa’s mother told officers. (the full interview appears in the statement of facts embedded at the bottom of this story)
Aqsa was murdered because she sought freedom from the oppressive control of her Pakistani father, who did not want her to wear western clothing, socialize with friends or work at a part-time job. When she defied her father, he plotted to kill her. The Parvez case highlighted the inability of Canadian institutions and agencies to recognize and respond appropriately to such threats. In the months before the murder, Aqsa had told school authorities, counsellors and friends that she feared her father would kill her. Similarly in the Shafia case, there were multiple warnings before the murders.
After the Parvez killing, the federal government commissioned a study of honour killings. It concluded what many other experts and researchers had long established – that the murders are a product of oppressive, patriarchal traditions in which women and girls are required to be obedient, subservient to the men in their families, modest and compliant. Men in these families view disobedience, particularly if it’s known publicly, as bringing shame or dishonour on the patriarch and the family. The men cling to the distorted belief that the only way to cleanse this shame is to kill the offending girl and/or woman. Honour killings are practised in many cultures and across numerous religions. In Canada, because many honour killings have involved perpetrators from Muslim-dominated South Asian countries, the debate has often become a polarized and angry tirade against religion. For a thoughtful analysis, read the policy paper (embedded below) by Aruna Papp, survivor, advocate and author, one of Canada’s few true experts on honour violence and honour killing.
Though the Parvez case was one of the first in Canada to attract widespread and sustained national coverage – and to garner international headlines – it was far from the first in the country. In 1991, Daljit Singh Dulay killed his sister, Kulwinder Dulay, 20, her husband Gurdawr Singh Dulay, 28, and Mukesh Kumar Sharma, 28, on a street in downtown Calgary, Alberta, outside a video store where the couple worked. Daljit Dulay was angry that his sister had eloped and secretly wed, without the permission of her strict Sikh family. He was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.
Some other honour killings in Canada:
• 1999, Ottawa: Adi Abdel Humaid stabbed his wife Aysar Abbas to death while they were in Ottawa (they lived in Dubai). She was stabbed in the neck at least 19 times and stabbed in the heart. Humaid was convicted of first-degree murder. His appeals were rejected. At trial, a defence expert on Islamic religion and culture testified that infidelity by a woman could lead to violence because it would be viewed as a serious violation of family honour.
• 2003, British Columbia: Amandeep Atwal, 17, died of multiple stab wounds at the hands of her father, Rajinder Singh Atwal, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the case. He had brought his teenage daughter to hospital in Langley, B. C., claiming she had inflicted the wounds on herself, but court heard that Mr. Atwal disapproved of the 17-year-old’s love affair with a classmate, who was a year older.
• In 2006 in Ottawa, Ont., Khatera Sadiqi, 20, and her fiance, Feroz Mangal, were shot to death by Sadiqi’s brother, who believed she had shamed the Pakistani family by getting engaged without her father’s consent. Hasibullah Sadiqi, 23, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder.
• In June 2007 in Scarborough, Ont., Anitha Selvanayagam, 16, and her boyfriend were walking together when they were run over and seriously injured by a van driven by her father. Prosecutors called it an “attempted honour killing” by Sri Lankan immigrant Selvanayagam Selladurai who was angry that his daughter had dated a boy of a lower caste. He pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault. Selladurai also ran down his son-in-law in the attack.
• In January 2009, Amandeep Kaur Dhillon, 22, was stabbed to death by her father-in-law, 47-year-old Kamikar Singh Dhillon, who believed she would disgrace his family by divorcing his son. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Because Aqsa Parvez’s killers pleaded guilty, there was no trial, but an agreed-statement of facts was entered into evidence:
Aruna Papp’s policy paper on honour killings: