Iraqi Woman’s Killing in California Sparks Hate-Crime Debate

As officials investigate the case, some outraged social-media users are comparing her killing to the Trayvon Martin case.

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Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi immigrant and mother of five, died Saturday after being taken off life support, the Associated Press reports. Last Wednesday, the 32-year-old was brutally attacked in her El Cajon home in Southern California. Alawadi’s teenage daughter, 17, came home to find her mother unconscious on the dining-room floor, having been beaten in the head with a tire iron.

“Based on the type of injuries Alawadi sustained and other evidence retrieved at the scene, this case is being investigated as a homicide,” Lt. Steve Shakowski told KUSI-TV. Next to her body, police found a threatening, xenophobic note but would not describe the details of its message. According to KGTV-TV, Alawadi’s daughter said the note called the family terrorists and warned them to return to Iraq.

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“A week ago they left a letter saying, ‘This is our country, not yours, you terrorists,'” Fatima Al Himidi, Alawadi’s daughter, told KGTV. “So my mom ignored that, thinking (it was) kids playing around, pranking. And so the day they hurt her, they left it again and it said the same thing.”

Originally from Iraq, the family moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago. Alawadi and her daughters had carried on some Iraqi traditions like wearing hijabs. After living in Michigan, they moved to El Cajon, home to one of the U.S.’s largest Iraqi communities. A family friend, Sura Alzaidy, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the attack happened while the father was dropping their younger kids off at school.

This tragedy occurred just weeks after shootings at a Jewish school in southwestern France and the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Social-media users have drawn parallels between the cases, calling for an end to the violence.


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