11 Case Study Number 2: Zakia and Wasim







Age at time of marriage 



Age * 



Country of Origin  


Afghanistan. Wasim had refugee status in India before coming to Canada.



Muslim at birth. Converted to Christianity.


Completed grade 11 in Afghanistan. Took some additional courses in India

Completed grade 12 in India

English language ability 



Employment before migration  

No Information Available

No Information Available


Sales employee

Sales employee

Category under which immigrated 

Conventional Refugee category- Community Sponsorship program (2016)

Conventional Refugee category- Community Sponsorship program (2016)

Immigration status* 

Permanent Resident

Number of years of marriage: 5 


  • Daughter: Abida (1 year old)

*At the time of the Family Court application 


Pre-Migration History 

Zakia married Wasim in India on January 2012 at the age of eighteen (18). Both Zakia and Wasim were living with Wasim’s parents under refugee status in India. They held a UNHCR Blue Card. Though both individuals were born into Muslim families, Wasim had converted to Christianity while living in India as a refugee. At the time of marriage, he re-converted to Islam to marry Zakia. It was a first marriage for both and Zakia believed it was a love marriage. In India, both Zakia and Wasim worked in low paying survival jobs. The day after their marriage, her mother-in-law, a lawyer, persuaded Zakia to sign a contract that stated that in the event of a divorce, she would receive no compensation. One week into their marriage, Wasim cheated on Zakia; this behaviour continued throughout their marriage.

Four years into their marriage, Wasim told Zakia that he had, once again, converted to Christianity.   Wasim’s family continuously emotionally abused Zakia and insulted her family and Islam. Zakia’s father-in-law would throw out her religious objects calling them “bullshit”.  In addition, Wasim physically assaulted her, at one point grabbing her by the neck and punching her in the mouth, resulting in swelling that prevented her from eating for a week. Zakia would often experience physical abuse at Wasim’s hands. On one occasion she complained to the authorities but when was told by them that her refugee application would be jeopardized if she filed a formal complaint, she did not pursue it any further.

Zakia had to hand over all her earnings to Wasim’s family for rent and groceries. After complying for some time, she then insisted on keeping some of her money whereupon the family became angry and the situation deteriorated further.

Zakia became pregnant three times. Each time she was forced to undergo an abortion, as Wasim’s family stated that having children would be too costly. Because she had no other options, she did so, and suffered from pain and loss.

Prior to the wedding, Wasim’s family promised Zakia that she would be able to return to school to finish her education. After the marriage they discouraged her saying it would be expensive for her to return and that she would be surrounded by too many men.  Nonetheless, she did return, but had to repeat grade 10 in India, as her grade 11 credentials from Afghanistan were not recognised. Ultimately, she was not able to finish grade 12 as she moved to Canada with her spouse and his family.


Settlement in Canada 

Zakia, Wasim, and his extended family landed in Canada on October 26, 2016 as permanent residents. They moved to Canada as privately sponsored refugees, in the Convention Refugee abroad class. Zakia and Wasim lived with Wasim’s parents and his two brothers. The couple found work in the same company and Wasim frequently cheated on Zakia with several of their work colleagues. Wasim and his family continued to take money from Zakia, and controlled her day-to-day life including her dress, food, and friends. In November 2016, Zakia found out she was pregnant. The family pressured her to have another abortion, but she refused. She had to buy maternity clothes on her own, as well as other incurred expenses.


Domestic Violence   

In addition to not being able to practice her faith, Zakia suffered physical, emotional and financial abuse and neglect. Zakia and Wasim’s families’ differing religions was a huge point of contention.  She had to pay her in-laws back if they went out on outings. She was not allowed to send money to her family in India. In addition, she was not allowed to choose her own friends. The food she ate, the places she went and the clothes she wore were closely monitored by Wasim’s family. She was not allowed to pursue her education. One winter evening, when she was four (4) months pregnant, Zakia told Wasim they needed groceries. He went with her to the grocery store but abandoned her there, forcing her to walk back home in -27 Celsius weather. When she finally reached home at 10:30 PM, she found that Wasim and his family had eaten and not saved her any food. She greeted the family and went into the kitchen to cook. The family started yelling at her for not greeting them. She explained she did greet them however she was hungry and tired, so she wanted to eat something. Her father-in-law called her a “bloody Muslim”, insulted her family and their religion.  Her father-in-law told her she was living in their home, not hers and demanded that she leave.

Zakia took her father-in-law seriously due to the violent nature she had observed in the family over the years. A few weeks previously, she had seen Wasim’s cousin assault his sister, resulting in need for medical attention. Zakia decided to leave to protect herself and her unborn baby. She left quickly, in the middle of the night. It was the middle of winter, but she was scared and determined to not return. She had only $20 in cash and a credit card with her. She took an Uber to a Holiday Inn and stayed there for the night. The next day at her workplace, she received a text from her spouse saying that he no longer considered her his wife. He invoked divorce using the word “talak” three times which constitutes as divorce under Islam law. They separated that day and Wasim told her he would send her the divorce papers. Her colleagues advised her to call 911, which she did. The police took her intake information and drove her to a shelter. Shortly after, Zakia disclosed the abuse to a Public Health Nurse and she was referred to the Children's Aid Society (CAS) because of her concerns about her unborn child’s well-being.

Zakia and Wasim continued to see each other at work but did not interact. Zakia had to finish work early on the recommendation of her midwife due to her poor health. Wasim never spoke with her or inquired about the baby or her health. Zakia gave birth to her daughter by emergency C-section. Wasim visited her only once after childbirth and brought his colleagues with him to the visit.



Zakia was granted sole custody of her daughter and they currently reside in government housing.  Wasim is able to visit their daughter, however, pick-ups and drop-offs are arranged through a mutually agreed-upon third party. Wasim was paying monthly child support, however, he has not seen nor had any contact with his daughter since February 2019.  Zakia enrolled into school to complete her high school credits.


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

Intersectional Vulnerabilities

Practitioners’ Subjectivity and Social Location

Social Policy and the Law 

Migration and Transnationalism

Providing Supports to Victims of DV




Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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.

Share This Book