Ten years later: Paying tribute to the forgotten Arab victims of 9/11


Throughout the 10 years that followed the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington hardly anyone heard about the Arab victims of that massive terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 3,000 civilians.

It is not clear why they have been neglected. Perhaps it is because there were few of them, and because marginalization has always been their destiny.

Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that not one single file contains information on all of the Arabs who were killed that day. This article documents these forgotten martyrs.

Very little was mentioned of the only Muslim among the Arab victim, a Yemeni named Abdul Salam al-Melahi, whose name was only mentioned once, in the February 10, 2002, issue of the New York Times.

According to the story, Melahi, who was 37 when he was killed in the attacks, was an audio-visual engineer at the Marriot located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He was working on bringing his wife and two children to live with him in New York when the attack took place.

A photograph of Melahi was posted on the image-hosting website Flickr, and 21 people, among them three Arabs, commented about his bravery and how he sacrificed his life to save others. They also wondered why he was not paid tribute to in Yemen or the United States.

One of the most moving comments was that of his son Malek and his cousin Jamila.

According to a former Lebanese Consul in New York, Hassan Nijm, whom I met 13 days after the attacks, four Lebanese who immigrated to the United States were killed in the attacks.

Boutros al-Hashem, known as Peter, immigrated at the age of five to the United States in 1969 with his parents and seven siblings.

Hashem was flying with his sister Rose from Boston, where he worked as production manager in Teradyne and where he lived with his wife and cousin, Rita al-Hashem, and his two sons. While he was at the airport waiting for the plane that would take him to Los Angeles, his sister called to say she was not joining him, so he flew on his own to his destiny.

On the same flight was Walid Iskander, another Lebanese, who did not know Hashem. He lived in London and was getting ready for his wedding, which was scheduled to take place in June 2002. He travelled to Boston with his South African fiancée to visit his sister who lived there.

In Boston, the couple decided to fly to Los Angeles to attend the wedding of a relative, but they agreed that he would go first and she would catch up with him in three days. Like Hashem, he flew alone to his death.

Iskander was born in 1967 in Beirut and was brought up in Kuwait. He obtained a degree in engineering from Harvard, then worked for a company called Monitor Consulting. He later became a partner in the company and oversaw its London office.

Joud Moussa worked as a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, which had its offices on floors 101-105 of One World Trade Center. The company’s headquarters were very close to the impact point of one of the suicide planes, and all of the Cantor Fitzgerald employees are work that morning died, including Moussa, who was 35.

Moussa immigrated to the United States in 1984, and his family immigrated years later to the island of Guadalupe in the Caribbean. He used to call his mother every morning, and did the same on the day of the attacks, 15 minutes before his death. His mother and father went back to live in their village in Lebanon in 2008.

No pictures are available for the fourth Lebanese who died in the attacks and whose name was mentioned by the former American ambassador in Lebanon. His name was Robert Dirani and the information available about him does not exceed the fact that he was a 34-year-old lawyer and that he headed to the World Trade Center at 8 a.m. for an appointment in one of the companies in the building. His body has never been found.

Albert al-Alfi is the only Egyptian among the Arab victims. He was a Canadian citizen and lived in Toronto. After marrying an Egyptian he met in Cairo, he received an offer from Cantor Fitzgerald and the couple moved to New York.

Alfi, who was 30 years old at the time, died before his daughter was born.

Robert Elias Talhami, a Jordanian, was also killed in Cantor Fitzgerald, where he worked as a broker on the 104th floor.

Talhami was born in Pakistan, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was seven years old. They later moved to Venezuela, where his dad worked in an engineering projects company.

In Caracas, Robert finished his post-graduate studies then went returned to the United States. He worked in Tokyo from 1994 until 2001, then returned to work and live in New York, where he died, leaving a widow and two boys.

Another Jordanian was Ramzi Dowani, who was 35 years old when he died in his office at Marsh & McLennan on the 100th floor.

When Dowani, who worked as a financial auditor, arrived at his office on the morning of September 11, he wrote an email to his parents and some of his friends to tell them he was back to New York from a business trip.

Dowani was born in Amman to Palestinian parents. He finished boarding school in London, then immigrated to the United States, where he majored in business administration and graduated in 1992. He worked in several companies before ending up in the company where he met his death.

Dowani was known for his benevolence. He took care of a sick woman for a long time and hosted a family friend who was going through financial troubles in his apartment for two years. Dozens travelled to Amman to take part in his funeral in a church in Amman, but there was no burial ceremony, because his body was never found.

Four Americans of Lebanese origin died in the attacks and their names were released by the Lady of Lebanon Maronite Church in Brooklyn. Joudi Safi was a 24-year-old broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, and his paternal grandfather immigrated to the United States from the district of Keserwan in the Mount Lebanon Governorate.

Katherine Carmen Gharib, a 41-year-old marketing manager, was attending a conference in the World Trade Center. She was a single mother of one daughter.

Mark Hindi, who was 28, he worked as a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, and Jacqueline Sayegh, who was 34, died on the 107th floor, where she was setting tables in the Windows on the World restaurant. Six months earlier she had married married an American co-worker.

In addition to these Arabs, the archives Al Arabiya checked show that a total of 32 Muslims were killed in the attacks: 26 men and six women. They came from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Guyana, Sri Lanka, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia, Trinidad and Tobago, Burma, Albania, Greece, and India.

(This article was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)