A 32-year-old Iraqi victim of a brutal beating in her San Diego, California, home died yesterday when, with doctors’ expectations that she would not survive, her family removed her from life support. Shaima Alawadi’s family thinks the beating constitutes a hate crime, and police acknowledge the possibility.
Alawadi, a mother of five children aged 8 to 17, immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq in 1993. On Wednesday, her eldest daughter, Fatima al-Himidi, found Aalwadi “drowning in her own blood.” Al-Himidi said her mother was beaten with a tire iron. The daughter told San Diego’s KUSI television news that a note near her mother read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” (Another report said the note read, “Go back to your own country. You’re a terrorist.”)
“We’re not the terrorists,” al-Himidi said, speaking to the news camera, her voice shaky with emotion. “You are, whoever did it.”
Watch the KUSI news report:
Fatima al Hamidi also told KUSI that the family had gotten another similar, threatening note earlier this month, but that her mother dismissed it as a prank by neighborhood kids. No report was filed with the police.
A family friend, Sura Alzaidy, said the al-Himidi and Alawadi family had only returned to San Diego — into their new home — three weeks ago after an unspecified period of time living in Michigan. Speaking with the San Diego Union-Tribune, she described Alawadi as a “respectful modest muhajiba,” denoting that Alawadi covered her hair with a scarf in keeping with traditional Muslim customs.
Police spokesman Lt. Mark Coit said the investigation, in its early stages, was still broad, but did not rule out that the murder was a hate crime:
A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that. We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else.
He added that the killing appeared to be an “isolated incident.”
The family friend Alzaidy told the San Diego paper that her father and Alawadi’s husband, al-Himidi, worked together for the U.S. Army:
Alzaidy said her father and Alawadi’s husband had previously worked together in San Diego as private contractors for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East.
Neighbors said the al-Himidi-Alawadi family left Iraq because they were “running away from war, running away from problems.”