Forgotten victims of Sept. 11, 2001 should be remembered, too
Americans will commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and remember the 2,977 victims who died in those attacks, but few will remember or honor those Americans who were victims of the hate backlash that consumed many Americans in the weeks, months and years after the terrorism.
By Ray Hanania
In the weeks, months and even years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of Americans who were either Middle Eastern or who “looked” Middle Eastern were attacked and killed in a hate-backlash fueled by anger from Americans.
Many of these attacks were never documented. The American government has refused to recognize the post-Sept. 11, 2001 victims of the hate backlash to be considereda victims of Sept. 11, 2001 along with the 2,977 Americans who were killed on that day in New York City during the destruction of the Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon and in the hijacking of four commercial airlines destroyed by terrorists for al-Qaeda.
The independent group Human Rights Watch along with several activists including this reporter, have campaign to have those victims included as being among those who died specifically as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The families of those murdered also deserve financial compensation from the more than $38 billion set aside by the government to compensate and help the victims.
Not one penny has been given to victims who were targeted in revenge hate attacks by Americans angry with the Sept. 11 terrorism.
Worse is that the U.S. Government refuses to recognize these post-Sept. 11, 2001 hate victims, and even worse is that the U.S. Government has opposed including Arabs as a category in the U.S. Census, making it almost impossible to identify the depth of the hate attacks.
In otherwords, no one has any complete data on how many Arabs, Muslims or other Americans who looked Middle Eastern were killed or injured as a consequence of the terrorist attacks aftermath. There are only estimates based on some incidents in which the killers have been identified and who confessed to killing their victims in acts of “revenge.” Many policing agencies refused to identify the victims as backlash victims.
Here is a list of fatalities and injured Americans who were targeted in Sept. 11, 2001 hate-backlash attacks because they were or “looked” Middle Eastern maintained by the organization Human Rights Watch. Click here to read the HRW report.
You can read my column on this topic published this week in the Arab News Newspaper by clicking this link.
Read Ray Hanania’s speech to the Inland Press Association on October 29, 2002, a year after Sept. 11 by clicking this link.
Here is alist of victims compiled by Human Rights Watch:
Balbir Singh Sodhi
Balbir Singh Sodhi, a forty-nine-year-old turbaned Sikh and father of three, was shot and killed while planting flowers at his gas station on September 15, 2002. Police officials told Human Rights Watch that hours before the crime, Sodhi’s alleged killer, Frank Roque, had bragged at a local bar of his intention to “kill the ragheads responsible for September 11.”90 In addition to shooting Sodhi three times before driving away, Roque also allegedly shot into the home of an Afghani American and at two Lebanese gas station clerks.91 The Maricopa County prosecutor’s office was due to try Roque for Sodhi’s murder on November 12, 2002.
On October 4, 2001, Mark Stroman shot and killed Vasudev Patel, a forty-nine-year old Indian and father of two, while Patel was working at his convenience store in Mesquite, Texas.92 A store video camera recorded the murder, allowing law enforcement detectives to identify Stroman as the killer. Stroman said during a television interview that anger over the September 11 attacks caused him to attack any store owner who appeared to be Muslim. He further stated during the interview: “We’re at war. I did what I had to do. I did it to retaliate against those who retaliated against us.”93 In addition to killing Patel, Stroman also shot and killed Waquar Hassan on September 15, 2001 (see below), and also shot Rais Uddin, a gas station attendant, blinding him.94 Stroman was tried and convicted of capital murder for killing Patel and sentenced to death on April 3, 2002.95
Waquar Hassan, a forty-six-year-old Pakistani and father of four, was killed while cooking hamburgers at his grocery store near Dallas, Texas on September 15, 2001. Although no money was taken from Hassan’s store, police in Dallas initially believed that he was killed during a robbery because he had been robbed twice that year.96 Hassan’s family, however, believed his murder was a hate crime because nothing was stolen by the assailant and the murder had occurred so soon after September 11.97 His family also pointed out that customers visiting Hassan’s store after September 11 subjected him to ethnic and religious slurs.98 The case remained unsolved until Mark Stroman admitted to killing Hassan to a fellow prison inmate in January 2002.99 Murder charges against Stroman were dropped once he was convicted and sentenced to death for Vasudev Patel’s murder.100
On September 17, 2001, Ali Almansoop, a forty-four year old Yemini Arab, was shot and killed in his home in Lincoln Park, Michigan after being awoken from his sleep by Brent David Seever. At the time of his murder, Almansoop was in bed with Seever’s ex-girlfriend.101 Immediately before killing Almansoop, Seever said that he was angry about the September 11 terrorist attacks. Almansoop pleaded that he did not have anything to do with the attacks.102 Seever shot Almansoop anyway. Seever acknowledged to police investigators that he killed Almansoop in part because of anger related to September 11. Prosecutors chose to prosecute the matter as a murder, rather than a bias-motivated murder, because they believe Mr. Seever’s motivation for murdering Almansoop was motivated in part by jealousy over Almansoop’s relationship with is ex-girlfriend. Mr. Seever had been stalking his ex-girlfriend before the murder.103
Abdo Ali Ahmed
On September 29, 2001, Abdo Ali Ahmed, a fifty-one-year-old Yemini Arab and Muslim, and father of eight, was shot and killed while working at his convenience store in Reedley, California.104 Cash in two registers and rolled coins inside an open safe were left untouched. In addition, Ahmed’s gun, which he kept for protection, reportedly remained in its usual spot, indicating that he may not have felt in mortal danger.105 Two days before his murder, Ahmed had found a note on his car windshield which stated, “We’re going to kill all of you [expletive] Arabs.”106 Instead of contacting the police, Ahmed threw the note away.107
Ahmed’s family and local Muslim leaders have told the local press that they believe his killing was a hate crime.108 However, largely because no perpetrator or perpetrators have been found for whom a motive can be established, police have not classified the murder as a hate crime. California Governor Gray Davis offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Ahmed’s killers.109At the time of this writing, the investigation into Ahmed’s murder was stalled because police had run out of leads.110
On September 15, 2001, Adel Karas, a forty-eight-year-old Arab and Coptic Christian, and father of three, was shot and killed at his convenience store in San Gabriel, California. According to press reports, his wife, Randa Karas, believes he was murdered because he was mistaken for a Muslim. She points out that no money was taken from the cash register and that her husband had a thick wad of bills in his pocket. Local police told Human Rights Watch that they do not believe his murder was bias-motivated because there is no evidence to indicate anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bias. The murder remained unsolved at the time of this writing. 111
Ali W. Ali
Ali W. Ali, a sixty-six-year-old Somali Muslim, died nine days after being punched in the head while standing at a bus stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 15, 2002.112 According to press reports, the only known witness to the attack saw the assailant walk up to Ali, punch him, stand over him, and then walk away.113 His son and Somali community members attributed the attack against Ali to anger created against Somalis by a front page local newspaper article that appeared two days before the attack.114 The article said that Somalis in Minneapolis had given money to a Somali terrorist group with links to Osama Bin Laden.115 After originally finding that Ali had died of natural causes, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office on January 8, 2002 ruled Ali’s death a homicide.116 Ali’s family regards his murder as a hate crime. Both local police and the FBI have been unable to find Ali’s assailant.117
Violent assaults related to September 11 were numerous and widespread. A review by the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT) of news articles published during the week following September 11 found reports of forty-nine September 11-related assaults.118 CAIR received 289 reports from Muslims of assaults and property damage incidents across the United States from September 11 until the second week of February.119
On the morning of September 13, 2001, Issa Qandeel, a Palestinian Muslim and an Arab, was leaving the Idriss Mosque in Seattle, Washington when he smelled gas near his jeep and saw a man, subsequently identified as Patrick Cunningham, come out from behind his jeep. Cunningham was carrying a can of gasoline and a gun. When Qandeel asked Cunningham what he was doing behind the jeep, Cunningham walked away.
When Qandeel tried to stop him, Cunningham shot at Qandeel three times, although his gun did not discharge any bullets. Cunningham then started running away and Qandeel chased him. Cunningham shot at Qandeel again and this time a bullet did discharge, although it missed Qandeel. Cunningham was apprehended when he crashed his car trying to get away. Police later discovered that Cunningham planned to burn cars in the mosque driveway because of anger at the September 11 attacks. Federal authorities prosecuted Cunningham for attacking Qandeel and attempting to deface a house of worship. He pled guilty on May 9, 2002 and was scheduled to be sentenced on October 18, 2002. He faces a minimum of five years of incarceration.120
On September 13, 2001, Raymond Isais Jr. allegedly assaulted Kulwinder Singh, a turbaned Sikh taxi worker, in SeaTac, Washington. After getting into the back seat of Singh’s taxi, Isais told Singh, “You have no right to attack our country!” He then started choking Singh. After both men then got out of the taxi, Isais started punching Singh, pulled out tufts of his beard and knocked off his turban. Isais called Singh a terrorist during the assault. Local police were able to apprehend Isais Jr. the same day using a description provided by Singh. He was charged with a hate crime by local country prosecutors.121
Swaran Kaur Bhullar
On September 30, 2001, Swaran Kaur Bhullar, a Sikh woman, was attacked by two men who stabbed her in the head twice as her car was idling at a red light in San Diego. The men shouted at her, “This is what you get for what you’ve done to us!” and “I’m going to slash your throat,” before attacking her. As another car approached the traffic light, the men sped off. Bhullar felt that she would have been killed by the men if the other car had not appeared. She was treated at a local hospital for two cuts in her scalp and released later that same day. Local police and federal law enforcement officials have been unable to identify Bhullar’s attackers.122
On September 12, 2001, Faiza Ejaz, a Pakistani woman, was standing outside a mall in Huntington, New York waiting for her husband to pick her up from work. According to press reports, Adam Lang, a seventy-six-year-old man sitting in his car outside the mall, allegedly put his car in drive and started driving towards her. Ejaz was able to avoid the car by jumping out of the way and running into the mall. Lang then jumped out of his car and screamed that he was “doing this for my country” and was “going to kill her.” Mall security agents seized Lang. Sergeant Robert Reecks, commander of the Suffolk County Bias Crimes Bureau, told reporters: “if she hadn’t jumped out of the way, he would have run right over her.”123 Lang was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, which requires an enhanced penalty if the crime is bias-motivated.
On June 18, 2002, FK, an American Muslim woman who wears a hijab, was allegedly assaulted by a woman in a drug store near Houston, Texas. Before assaulting FK, the woman told her that she had learned about “you people” over the last ten months and doesn’t trust “a single damn one of you.” Before FK could get away from the woman, she slammed FK to the floor and began pulling at her headscarf, which had the effect of choking her. Though FK told the woman she could not breathe, she kept pulling at the headscarf. FK then pulled off her headscarf, in violation of her religious obligations in a desperate effort to alleviate the choking. The woman then dragged FK by her hair to the front of the store. When police arrived, the woman was holding FK by her ponytail on the front sidewalk of the store. She told police that she was making a citizen’s arrest. The police told her to let FK go, at which point FK was able to put her headscarf back on. 124
Karnail Singh is a Sikh man who owns a motel in SeaTac, Washington. In mid-October, 2001, John Bethel, a local vagrant who sometimes came into Singh’s motel for coffee and food, told Singh, “You better go back to your country. We’re coming to kick your ass.” A few days later, on October 19, Bethel entered Singh’s motel and shouted, “You still here? Go back to Allah!” before hitting Singh with a metal cane while he stood behind the counter in the motel lobby. Singh, who bled profusely from the blow, spent half a day in the hospital and required ten stitches on his head. Bethel was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon.125
On September 19, 2001, Satpreet Singh, a turbaned Sikh, was driving in the middle lane of a two lane highway in Frederick County, Maryland. A pickup truck pulled up close behind Singh and the driver started making profane gestures towards him. The pickup truck then moved alongside Singh’s car on his left and the driver took out a rifle. Singh increased his speed to get away from the pickup truck. Seconds later he heard rifle shots. No bullets hit Singh or his car. The pickup truck then turned around and started traveling in the opposite direction. Singh filed a criminal complaint with the local police. At the time of this writing, local authorities have not been able to ascertain the identity of the person who shot at Singh.126