The death of a 32-year-old Iraqi woman, who was found at home severely beaten in the head with a note telling her to “go back to your country you terrorist”, has caused shock across a country still reeling from the death of a young black man in a hate crime in Philadelphia.
Shaima Alwadi was taken off life support on Saturday, four days after the crime occurred in her home in San Diego, California. The mother of five is believed to have been beaten to death by a tire iron according to her 17-year-old daughter who was interviewed by a local TV channel. In the video that has gone viral on social media, the young girl makes an emotional plea and asks why her mother was taken away from her.
Mrs. Alwadi had received a similar note earlier at home but she dismissed it as a prank.
“A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that,” Lt. Mark Coit was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. “We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else.”
Alwadi’s death comes at a time where the death of a young black unarmed man, Trayvon Martin, shot by a white security guard of a gated community in Florida, has unleashed a storm on race issues in the United States.
The marches across the country on Friday were dubbed “Million Hoodie Marches” in honor of the 17-year-old Martin who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot last month. Demonstrators said the death is a reminder of the discrimination that takes place against blacks by law enforcers.
Martin was on his way home from the grocers when he was spotted by a member of a neighborhood watch group George Zimmerman who called the police to report what he said was a suspicious man on drugs. Despite being told by the police to stay where he was, Zimmerman followed Martin and claims to have shot him in self-defense.
Martin’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him, however, says that she heard Martin being shoved to the ground and cries for help before shots rang out.
Zimmerman has avoided prosecution due to his claim of self-defense reported the Telegraph on Saturday. His current whereabouts remain unknown.
U.S. President Barack Obama weighed in on the controversy on Friday urging people to “soul search” as he called for a thorough investigation into the case and described Martin as his son.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative to investigate every aspect of this and that every-body pulls together - federal, state and local - to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened,” he said. “I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.
“And that means we examine the laws, the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.”
His words will provide little solace to the parents of Martin or family of Mrs. Alwadi still in shock over her tragic death.
The parallels between Martin’s death and Alwadi’s are easy to make and not lost on social media platforms where analogies between both victims, killed for wearing a hoodie and hijab respectively, are being made.
For Mrs. Alwadi, there is much grief being expressed as can be evidenced with the hashtag #ripShaima as they tried to come to terms with the notion that a woman could be killed in the U.S. for wearing a hijab.
The note’s threatening element of “return to your country” has caused equal amounts of outrage, with many people across social media scoffing at the notion since the basis of the United States centers on migrants.
One Twitter user by the handle XChristelle wrote: “’Return to your country’? The USA is composed of migrants who massacred a people to steal their land. Who must return now?”
(Editor’s Note: In our story, we listed George Zimmerman as a security guard when that is not the case. The error has since been rectified and is regreted.)