Relatives wept as the casket of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five children ranging in age from 8 to 17 , was taken to the Valley of Peace ( Wadi e Salam ) cemetery in the holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
Alawadi was , was found unconscious by her 17-year-old eldest daughter Fatima ,in the dining room floor of her home in the city of El Cajon in San Diego County, California on March 21 last Wednesday
She was taken to a trauma centre with a severe head injury and died last Saturday after being taken off life support.
Fatima told a local television station that her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tyre lever ,( Click the Link to see the complete Video Report ) and that the note said “go back to your country, you terrorist”. The police confirmed a note had been found but did not release the details.
The daughter had reportedly been sleeping upstairs. She found her mother in a pool of blood with a sliding glass door into the house broken.
According to El Cajon police lieutenant Mark Coit, the family told the police that another threatening note had been found earlier this month outside their home. But they told police that they had not reported it after dismissing it as a prank.
The killing is being investigated as a possible hate crime because of a threatening note that was found near 32-year-old Iraqi woman lying in a pool of blood next to a note saying “go back to your country, you terrorist.” police say.
“The martyr (Alawadi) used to love all, she made no distinction between religions,” Alawadi’s father, Nabil, told Reuters.
“Her husband told me that someone threw a note saying ‘go back to your own country, you’re a terrorist’… Who is the real terrorist, Shaima, or them,” he said.
Alawadi’s casket, draped in an Iraqi flag, was flown into Iraq on Saturday. A police convoy transported the coffin to the shrine of Imam Ali, a central figure of Shi’ite Islam, where Funeral prayers were held for Alawadi before she was buried.
Mourners carrying a banner calling for legal action.
“The motives behind the crime are racial … We call on concerned Iraqi institutions such as the Human Rights Ministry, parliamentary committees and the Foreign Ministry to follow up on the crime and find the criminals,” Alawadi’s nephew, Haider Kadhim, said.
Alawadi lived in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, which, along with nearby areas, is home to some 50,000-60,000 immigrants and refugees of Middle Eastern descent.
If hate is confirmed as a motive in the killing, it would be the worst bias crime committed against Arabs or Muslims in years in the area, according to Sadaf Hane, civil rights director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
According to Hanif Mohebi, the director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, there is a large Iraqi population in El Cajon and its members often face “discriminatory hate incidents
While the Police say the region has not experienced violent hate crimes in the past.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist strikes, Islamophobic incidents were reported in several US cities, with attacks on people and mosques. But Mohebi said there had been little evidence of escalating tension in the area recently and there had been no incident comparable to this attack. He said a taxi driver had been severely beaten in the area a few years ago but he could recall no other recent severe physical attacks on Muslims.
The FBI is assisting the El Cajon Police Department in the investigation, and has provided agents from a squad that is specifically trained to conduct hate crime investigations, FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth said.
The murder comes at a sensitive moment for race relations in the US following the killing of a black teenager by a self-styled neighbourhood watch volunteer. Unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after being chased by George Zimmerman, 28, last month in Sanford, Florida, sparking a national debate about gun laws and race and calls to prosecute Zimmerman under hate crime laws.