Shaima Alawadi was a 32 year-old mother of five children who came to the United States in the mid 1990’s for a better life after a failed Shiite uprising in Iraq. According to the Daily Mail: “They lived in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S… and Saddam Hussein’s troops hanged Alawadi’s uncle.” Little did Shaima know that years later she would be found unconscious with a severe head wound in a pool of blood. Shaima eventually died of her injuries on March 24, 2012.
Her death sparked vigils and protests throughout the country including a Facebook page titled: One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi. It’s a campaign to post pictures of women wearing a hijab representing a head covering part of Alawadi’s Muslim faith.
However was this a hate crime or honor killing?
When police first arrived at the scene, they found a handwritten note stating “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” A week prior to her death the family received a message: “This is our country, not yours, you terrorist.” Shaima Alawadi dismissed this note thinking it was just a kid’s prank. The death has left the community in fear of person(s) loose in a murder that might be a bias-motivated hate crime. Can people of all faiths live in the US without fear?
However, police found divorce papers in Shaima’s vehicle and her husband’s whereabouts is unknown at the time of her death. Fatima Alawadi, the teenage daughter, was being forced to an arraigned marriage to a cousin. Fatima is also refusing to communicate with police. She also sent out a suspicious text stating: “The detective will find out tell them (can’t) talk.”
Honor killings are often directed at women who have brought “dishonor” to their family or community. According to Julia Dahl of CBS News: “Although many Americans may think that phenomena such as forced marriages and so-called ‘honor killings’ exist only overseas, social service agencies, educators, and a growing number of law enforcement personnel know differently. According to a survey the Tahirih Justice Center conducted of more than 500 social service, religious, legal, educational and medical agencies last year, 67 percent responded that they believed there were cases of forced marriage occurring among the populations they serve, but only 16 percent felt their agency was equipped to deal with the situation.”
Shaima was planning on divorcing her husband and moving to Texas. Currently her son, daughter, and husband are in Iraq burying her body. Regardless, if this is a hate or honor killing, a mother is dead and another woman has become a target of violence.