Straight Talk
MICHELE MANDEL - Even in death, Randjida Khairi wasn't considered a person

Credits: court exhibit

MICHELE MANDEL | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- With Peer Khairi's conviction for second-degree murder, there is justice at last for his invisible victim.

The jury was never shown any photos of Randjida when the Afghan immigrant's long-suffering wife was still alive. They would be shown plenty of graphic pictures of her in death: her slain body, limp and twisted like a rag doll on a cot soaked through with her blood, her long black hair tangled over her face, the brutal gash to her neck that sliced through to her spine, the ugly puncture wounds to her chest and back, the bruises on her brown skin.

But her family wouldn't give Randjida's photo to the prosecution. Even in death, it was as if the wife and mother wasn't considered a worthy person in her own right.

It took the jury three days to reject Khairi's bizarre claim that he should be found guilty of manslaughter, that he'd been provoked because his 86-pound wife hurled heinous, culturally-sensitive insults and came at him brandishing a knife.

Ultimately, jurors saw through his self-serving excuses. He will serve an automatic life sentence for being nothing than a bitter old man bent on preserving his twisted notions of control and honour.

"Families come from all over the world to enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted here," Det.-Sgt. Michael Barsky said. "Certainly it's difficult for some older members of those communities to let go of their traditional, religious beliefs and allow that to happen."

Randjida was three days away from her 54th birthday, the tireless, fertile second wife chosen for Khairi by his beloved, but barren, first love when they all lived in Afghanistan. She produced six children in their two-wife household, even begged on the street when they needed money in India, and put up with a tyrannical spouse who called her a whore, especially after his first wife died.

But then they came to Canada in 2003.

Her husband complained that Randjida changed here. He complained that she now claimed she was entitled to equality. He complained that Canada gave women too many rights.

One of those rights she wished to exercise was to finally leave her miserable, abusive relationship.

There was no peace, only screaming from a manipulative husband who used his many suicide attempts to get his way. He would storm at her for letting their daughters dress immodestly and for allowing their sons to defy him. He was so dictatorial about his old world edicts that she hid their daughter's boyfriend from him for two years so he wouldn't erupt in one of his rages. Illiterate and unemployed, the former mechanic grew increasingly resentful that Randjida was the one collecting the government disability cheque and taking care of the household's meagre finances.

In Afghanistan and in India, he had been their autocratic ruler. But here, he'd lost all control and respect.

"He had a whole lot of anger around them not fulfilling the roles he had for them, of what a 'proper' wife does and what 'proper' children do," said Crown attorney Robert Kenny, who prosecuted the case with Crown Amanda Camara.

What's so tragic is that unlike many isolated immigrant women, Randjida did reach out for help. The Afghan Women's Organization was counselling her on how she could separate.

But she would never be allowed to escape.

She'd threatened to leave since their time in India, but Randjida always reconsidered, knowing she'd be the one shunned and blamed. But by March 18, 2008, she'd had enough. She'd been catering to her injured husband -- he'd hurt his leg in a car crash -- and his gratitude was expressed in more angry outbursts and insults. Did Randjida finally tell him that she was really leaving him for good?

Like so many abused women before her, her bid for freedom would mean paying with her life.

With justice now done, a sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Tuesday when Justice Robert Clark will hear submissions about parole eligibility -- a term ranging from 10 years to 25 years.

It would be so nice to now substitute those gruesome crime scene photos with one of Randjida when she was still alive, when she still had a glimmer of hope of finding a better life for herself in her new land.

But she has been erased. As daughter Giti told her father's preliminary hearing, "If I close my eyes, I don't remember her face anymore."

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