EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — The husband of an Iraqi-American woman whose slaying was initially believed to be connected to a hate crime pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murdering her during a domestic dispute.
The killing of Shaima Alawadi last March drew international attention after the couple’s teenage daughter said she found a note by her mother’s bludgeoned body that read: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”
The victim’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi, appeared briefly by video monitor in Superior Court after being charged with murder in the case. He was ordered held without bail after prosecutors argued that he had recently traveled to Iraq and was a flight risk.
Alawadi, 32, had left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising. She had lived in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S.
Police initially looked into the possibility that she had been the victim of a hate crime but later concluded she was killed by her husband.
Detectives found documents in Alawadi’s car indicating she had planned to seek a divorce, according to a sealed search warrant affidavit that was inadvertently given to a U-T reporter.
In addition, the affidavit showed the couple’s 17-year-old daughter was distraught over a pending arranged marriage to her cousin in Iraq and was found in a car with another man in November 2011.
Author Nina Burleigh, who has written extensively about the mix of Islam and Western societies, said the case highlights the sometimes dangerous clashes that can occur when female immigrants, particularly from Islamic countries, rebel against cultural restrictions and exercise choices made available in their adopted homelands.
“These things are happening all over the place,” Burleigh said. “It’s much more openly discussed in Europe where there is more integration from these societies, where in the U.S. it’s not discussed so much partly because we have a bias toward discussing the way these cultures treat women.”
El Cajon, the San Diego suburb where Shaima Alawadi and her family lived, is home to about 40,000 Iraqis.
The arrest of Alhimidi came only days after the sentencing of an Iraqi mother in Phoenix who was charged with beating her daughter because she refused to go along with an arranged marriage.
The 20-year-old woman was burned on her face and chest with a hot spoon then tied to a bed. The victim’s father and sister were also sentenced to two years of probation for their involvement.