Like many parents, Johra Kaleki clashed with her teenage daughter over missed curfews and attending the prom. But a judge is being asked to weigh whether deep cultural disparities between an Afghan-born mother and her Montreal-raised child may have contributed to Kaleki’s state of mind when she repeatedly stabbed Bahar Ebrahimi, then 19, in June 2010.
As Kaleki’s trial for attempted murder continues this week, Quebec Court Judge Yves Paradis is being asked to decide whether those cultural strains generated enough stress to make Kaleki’s strange statements to police in the wake of the crime inadmissible as evidence.
The judge has now been provided with a statement Ebrahimi gave to police from her hospital bed nine days after the attack, while recovering from stab wounds to her head and arm.
Paradis also has a transcript of testimony Ebrahimi gave during a preliminary hearing on Jan. 11, 2012 — months after she resumed living with both parents once her mother was released on bail.
By the time of her most recent account, the relationship between mother and daughter had mended to the point where Kaleki organized Ebrahimi’s 2011 wedding.
“My relationship with my mother today is just as it was before, perhaps even better,” Ebrahimi told Paradis in January.
The daughter’s more recent testimony emphasizes details suggesting Kaleki was out of her mind when launched the attack — as defence lawyers have argued — because her daughter had broken her curfew for the first time.
Ebrahimi told police days after the stabbing that her mother looked “crazy” and had “wild eyes.”
From her hospital bed, she also recounted her troubled relationship with her mother in detail.
Using the family computer required a password. She couldn’t have a Facebook page and, during one semester at Vanier, she had to travel home to Dorval during a four-hour break between courses.
Two days before the attack, Ebrahimi told her parents she was going to a downtown library. But, she said, she was lured to a free downtown concert by the sound of music. After the event, staged as part of Grand Prix festivities, Ebrahimi said, she went to a lounge bar where she befriended two women who agreed to let her sleep at their apartment. When she finally arrived home early Saturday morning, Ebrahimi said her parents “lectured me for three hours.”
That Saturday afternoon, most of Ebrahimi’s family went to visit her aunt, but she stayed home. Still wanting to experience Montreal’s nightlife, she headed out again with only $20 and one fare left on her Opus card. She stayed out late again after meeting a friend but realized she couldn’t get home. She called her father, Ebrahim Ebrahimi, and he agreed to pay her taxi fare.
She said that after paying the cabbie her father talked to her outside while her mother lingered by the front door.
Kaleki told her to come inside go down to the basement so they wouldn’t wake her three younger sisters. She said her parents asked her questions about why she had disobeyed them and refused to believe that she simply had gone out to hear music.
“And there, at one moment, my mother, she told my father ‘It’s okay. Go upstairs. I will take care of her.’ She told my father ‘She’s my girl. It’s my daughter. She will tell me the truth. We have a close bond.’ That’s what she said. I was vulnerable. I believed her. You know, she’s my mother,” Ebrahimi said. Her father agreed to go upstairs but mentioned he’d be right back. Ebrahimi said her mother replied to this by saying: “No, close the door and don’t come back until I tell you to.”
As soon as her father went upstairs, Ebrahimi said her mother “approached me with wild eyes.” Her mother wanted to know more even though Ebrahimi insisted she had told her the truth.
“Then she said ‘I’m sure that you are tired. Sleep.’ I laid down on my back and she said ‘No lie on your stomach’,” Ebrahimi said. Her mother told her to close her eyes and asked if she was content to be living in their house with her father’s rules. Ebrahimi replied that while she loved her father, she hated his rules.
“Then I felt something in my back,” she said of the first plunge of the knife. She quickly corrected herself and said the first strike was to the back of her skull and blood dripped toward her face. She asked what was going on but her mother continued to stab her with a large knife, striking her arm as Ebrahimi shielded her head.
“You know, in my head, the only thing going on in my head, the only words that I could think of were: ‘I’m not even 20 years old. I’m about to die and it’s my mother who is killing me. She is going to take my life,” she told the police.
Ebrahimi screamed out to her father for help. He appeared shocked as he rushed down to the basement, demanded to know what was going on, and told Ebrahimi to go upstairs to safety. She said she tried to escape by the front door but was too weak to open it. She then felt her mother’s hands on her face trying to suffocate her. Her father wrestled with Kaleki and told Ebrahimi to go his bedroom and call 911.
Ebrahimi said that as she headed up the stairs she heard her mother say: “Let me finish the job.”
In January Ebrahimi recalled more details suggesting her mother was “very agitated” and had not slept at all during the consecutive nights she stayed out late. Unlike her statement in 2010, Ebrahimi testified in January that her mother paced while they talked in the basement and sometimes spoke in a strange raspy voice in a language Ebrahimi had never heard before.
“It just did not seem human. It did not seem like my mother. She looked like … I was petrified just looking into her eyes,” She said. “It was hard to look at.”
The trial resumed on Wednesday.