MONTREAL — The violent death of a 36-year-old woman whose body was found Tuesday in the Montreal area is allegedly the 11th femicide in Quebec this year.
Zoleikha Bakhtiar was found stabbed to death in an apartment in Côte St-Luc, a suburb on the island of Montreal, police said, adding that her 35-year-old partner, Ariobarzan Bakhtiar, was arrested at the scene.
Bakhtiar was charged later on Tuesday with second-degree murder and is scheduled to return to court on July 5.
Police said the woman suffered injuries to her upper body caused by a sharp-edged weapon. Montreal police spokesman Julien Lévesque confirmed the victim and suspect were in a relationship and had children together.
"Two young children were found in the apartment when we arrived," Lévesque said without offering more details.
Quebec has experienced a spate of femicides since the beginning of 2021, with an unofficial count putting the number at 11. The deaths have helped push the provincial government to invest $222 million over five years for women's shelters and on other programs for victims of domestic violence.
Claudine Thibaudeau, a social worker for SOS violence conjugale, an organization that offers services to domestic violence victims in Montreal, said it's the first time in 20 years she feels a collective will for change.
"There's a wind of hope right now because there's a clear political implication," Thibaudeau said about the government money.
She said the number of women allegedly murdered by their partners in 2021 is abnormally high, adding that the province usually records about 10 to 12 femicides per year.
"Intimate partners used the pandemic as a reason to increase their power in the relationship," Thibaudeau said. "That's exactly what we thought would happen."
Thibaudeau warned that it is likely Quebec will see a rise in domestic violence as the province loosens COVID-19 restrictions.
"Victims, like everyone else, will regain power over their lives and have more freedom," Thibaudeau said. "Violent partners will want to maintain the power established during the pandemic. Chances are they will raise the frequency of their violent behaviours."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2021.
Virginie Ann & Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press