A 32 year old Shia Iraqi-American female, Shaima Al Awadi, was severely beaten in her rented home in El Cajon, California, on Wednesday, March 21, 2012. She was taken off of life support three days later. At the crime scene, a threatening note was found which, according to the victim’s eldest daughter, Fatima, read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist” Prior to the murder, a similar threatening note had been left at the residence, but was dismissed by the family as a prank. The assailant has yet to be caught.
The attack happened in the morning after the victim’s husband, Kassim al Hamidi, left the house to drop their children off at school. Their 17 year old daughter found Shaima lying unconscious after being struck in the head multiple times. The sliding glass door to the home was broken, but there was no burglary, which further leads the family to suspect that the incident was a hate crime.
The El Cajon police are still investigating and are not ready to confirm the incident as a hate crime. They have not released the contents of the note, but did say that it was threatening in nature. Chief of El Cajon police, James Redman, said that they are not restricting the extent of the investigation to that of a hate crime and are considering other possible motives. At the moment the police are calling the murder an isolated incident and reassuring the community that there is no cause for alarm. The FBI has stepped in to aid the local El Cajon police with the investigation.
Al Awadi had just recently moved into El Cajon, near the San Diego area, where there is a large population of Iraqi immigrants. She fled Iraq with her family in the 1990’s during a period of Shia persecution under Saddam’s regime. Al Awadi and her husband lived in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia before moving to America. They have five children aging 8 to 17.
A memorial for Al Awadi was held at the Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib Center in Lakeside, California on Tuesday. The husband made a statement which was translated by son, Mohammed, at the service saying, “We want to let everyone know how innocent our mother, this woman, was”. He also asked the killer, “What are you getting out of this, and why would you do this? A representative from Shia Rights Watch respectfully attended the service.
Al Awadi’s body will be transported to Najaf, Iraq for burial.