22 Case Study Number 13: Elham and Dawood




Elham Dawood

Age at time of marriage 

20 41

Age * 

35 55

Country of Origin  

No Information Available No Information Available


Muslim Muslim


High School (Germany) Bachelor of Engineering

English language ability 

Proficient Proficient

Employment before migration  

Unemployed Middle Eastern Country


Unemployed Employed

Category under which immigrated 

Family Class:  Dawood sponsored Elham under the spousal sponsorship program. (1995) Immigrated under a Student visa (in 1980).

Immigration status* 

Citizen Citizen

Number of years of marriage: 13


  • Son: Farooq (11 years old)
  • Daughter: Gulshan (8 years old)

*At time of the Family Court application


Pre-Migration History

Dawood had already been living in Canada for fifteen years, working as an engineer prior to their marriage.  He comes from a powerful and influential family with ties to his home country’s government secret service. Dawood sponsored Elham to immigrate to Canada in 1995, a year after they married.  There is a significant age gap between Elham and her spouse; she is over twenty years younger than he is. Elham said that he wanted to marry a younger woman so that he could ‘train and control’ his wife.

Settlement in Canada

Upon arrival in Canada, Elham wanted to return to school to complete her dentistry education. Dawood didn’t support her to do this. He told her that he wanted her to look after the home and start their family. Elham was responsible for all aspects of childcare, helping the children with schoolwork, extracurricular activities and medical appointments. Elham has one sister living in Canada but the rest of her family remained in their home country.

Domestic Violence

Soon after marriage, Elham realized that Dawood was having a long-term romantic relationship with a Canadian woman. In fact, Dawood brought the woman on Elham’s and Dawood’s honeymoon, ostensibly as a photo- and vidographer. This relationship continued throughout their marriage and the woman had a key to all three matrimonial homes over the years. She was also a title holder on Elham’s and Dawood’s first matrimonial home alongside the couple. Elham was expected to live with this arrangement. She was isolated in the home and her spouse controlled whom she socialized with. She did not have a key to the house and could not come and go as she pleased.

From the beginning of their marriage, Elham suffered significant abuse at Dawood’s hands. Dawood would drink heavily, swear and yell at her, punch her and throw her around. He would threaten to kill her and said that ‘going to jail would be worth every minute if she were dead’. He would tell the children to tell their mother that they hated her. The children witnessed the ongoing violence and they would often plead with their father to stop. Elham thought about contacting the police, but she did not as her spouse told her that he would send the children out of the country, and she would never see them again. As Dawood held the children’s passports, had family in high positions, and Dawood himself worked in the airline industry, this threat was very real.

Dawood would constantly interrogate the children and ask them what Elham did during the day and who she talked with. The children were not comfortable providing this information about their mother and would not comply. As punishment, Dawood would then take away their toys and games. He would become angry and yell at the children. He was overly aggressive with them, berating them for not meeting his expectations in both sports and school. He was inconsistent in his behaviour as there were other times that he would bring them gifts. As a result of this unpredictability, the children were afraid of him.

Elham disclosed the abuse to her family doctor and he began to treat her for the symptoms she presented. Her mental health has been managed with the help of medication over the years. Elham stated that, as time passed, she became wiser, stronger, and less tolerant to the abuse. Unfortunately, her spouse reacted negatively to her emerging resilience and the abuse only escalated.

The children were instructed not to call her ‘mother’. She describes being treated like a servant in her own home. Elham had no money of her own and Dawood did not provide her with any financial support. Elham started working part-time as a real estate assistant when the children were in school. She had previously earned her real estate license, but Dawood did not let her renew it. He did not want her to work and wanted her to relinquish her wages directly to him.  Dawood had built up significant debt of $600,000 from risky financial decisions and financial fraud, which included applying for thirty-six credit cards under Elham’s name. Throughout her marriage Dawood would approach Elham with a postnuptial agreement that stated he would have custody of the kids and she would pay him a certain amount if they were to separate. Elham did not sign this agreement. Regardless of their financial situation, Dawood drove luxury cars, while Elham drove an older car in need of repair.

In March 2008, Elham’s family went on a weeklong cruise with another family. Dawood drank heavily on the trip and had already  been approached by ship’s staff for being disruptive. After an argument one night, Elham was scared and hid in her friends’ cabin. Dawood found her and punched her in front of their friends. He said he was going to kill her and throw her off the ship into the water. The fight continued in Elham’s cabin where he continued hitting her and tore her clothes. Elham managed to tell the ship’s security officer and they secured another room for her for the remainder of the trip. Dawood stayed with the children for the remaining three days of the cruise and tried to brainwash them against their mother during this period.

Upon arriving back from the cruise, Elham went to live with her sister in the same city but would travel back to the marital home to cook, clean, and take care of the children while Dawood was at work. With her sister’s support she contacted the police, but at that time declined to make a statement. Two months later she moved back into the marital home but was relegated to the basement.

Just weeks after coming back to the home, Dawood threatened Elham with a broken beer bottle to her neck, demanding that she stop working. Elham complied. One week later, there was another argument where Elham confronted Dawood about questioning the children and searching through her things. At this point Dawood began taunting her by recording her with a camcorder (as he sometimes did). Elham tried to grab the camcorder but Dawood pushed her to the floor, where she fell, hitting her head, landing on her elbows, and hurting her neck. She told Dawood she would not live with the abuse any longer. She called the police and they asked her to move to a safe place. The officers kept Dawood busy while Elham packed her belongings.  She moved to a shelter with the children. There were no charges laid and Dawood tried to convince the police she was the one who attacked him. The Children’s Aid Society was called, and the children received counselling at the shelter in relation to the abuse. Elham sought a restraining order against her spouse, which was put into effect for sixteen months. She terminated the restraining order believing herself and her children to be safe and wanting to minimize conflict for the family.



After the restraining order ended, Elham and her spouse, with the court’s intervention, agreed to a visitation schedule. A year later, there was an incident with Dawood and the children, and they did not see him for another six (6) months. The Children’s Aid Society was involved. Elham’s desire is to start a new life and provide stability, love, and care for her children. Dawood continues trying to mislead the courts with a different version of the events leading up to the separation. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) is involved to represent the Best Interest of the Children. Elham is seeking Joint custody and would support access to the children, under the condition her spouse seeks help with anger and drinking issues. She is seeking child and spousal support.

Click on the links below to access Case Study questions related to the following:

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Migration and Transnationalism

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Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies Copyright © 2020 by Ferzana Chaze, Bethany Osborne, Archana Medhekar and Purmina George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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