In their first interview with the media, the family of Iraqi-American woman Shaima Alwadi, who was beaten to death in San Diego, decided to break their silence and recount the details of the murder that has sent shock waves across the United States and brought back worries of rising Islamophobia in the West.
“My wife was a victim of xenophobia,” Alwadi’s widower Qassem al-Hamidi told Al Arabiya in a phone interview Tuesday.
Hamidi said he and his wife are both from the city of al-Samawa in the governorate of al-Muthana in southern Iraq.
“We got married in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia.”
Hamidi and Alwadi had five sons and daughters, aged 17, 16, 13, 12 and eight.
Hamidi, 48, said he could not go on talking and explained that he was in a bad state before passing on the telephone to his wife’s cousin Hussein Alwadi.
“I saw her body in the dinning room a few minutes before the police arrived,” her cousin told Al Arabiya.
He said the murderer snuck into the house on Wednesday morning from the back garden.
“The garden has no fence so he was able to break the glass of the kitchen window right away and apparently he did so without making a noise.”
Hussein added that the attacker then reached for the window handle, opened it, and got inside.
“He did so after watching Shaima’s husband drive away with four of the children he was taking to school. Only Shaima and her eldest daughter Fatima stayed in the house. Fatima was asleep.”
The murderer, Hussein recounted, saw Shaima in the dinning room and attacked her with an iron rod or a spanner.
“He first hit her on her forehead then on her right ear. The third strike was on the back of her head. This was followed by five fast and consecutive strikes on her head and shoulders.”
Shaima, Hussein said, lost consciousness, upon which the attacker left the house.
“Because the attack was fast, the eldest daughter Fatima, who was asleep in the upper floor, did not hear a thing and only found out when she woke up and went downstairs to see her mother’s body drenched in blood.”
Hussein added that they immediately transferred Shaima to the hospital, where she died three days later after doctors failed to save her life and had to take her off life support.
“We got her body and are taking the necessary procedures to take it to Iraq, where she will be buried.”
In addition to the calamity that has befallen the family after Shaima’s death, Hussein noted, they have also been subjected to a smear campaign that has caused them a great deal of emotional hurt.
“The media said that Shiama’s husband was a cultural advisor at the U.S. Army and that he used to train American soldiers heading to the Middle East.”
According to Hussein, Qassem al-Hamidi has been unable to work for the past 18 years.
“He had a complete kidney failure and one of his brothers had to come from Sweden to donate one of his kidneys to him.”
Hussein added that Hamidi has had refugee status since he came to the United States and that Social Welfare pays his rent and his family’s expenses.
“Shaima did not work so they had no source of income.”
Hussein Alwadi was a taxi driver at San Diego Airport and is currently working at the administration of a well-known supermarket in the city of El Cajon, where he lives with his wife and four children.
Hussein said that he and his family were at the same refugee camp where Shaima and her husband got to know each other. The camp, which in 1991 sheltered more than 32,000 Iraqis who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime, was located in the town of Rafha in northern Saudi Arabia.
Both families stayed in the camp for four years before immigrating to the United States.
In 1995, they all left to the United States including Shaima’s seven brothers, some of whom currently live in San Diego and neighboring cities and others in Texas with Shaima’s mother.
Shaima’s father, Islamic preacher Sayyed Nabil Moaad Alwadi, was in Iraq when he got a phone call about his daughter’s death.
“He will stay there to receive her body and burry her,” Hussein concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)