Eugene Cho

in memory of shaima alawadi: human, daughter, wife, mother, neighbor, sister, friend

Take a long look.

Stare into her eyes.

Stare and Focus.  You’ll see that she’s not that different than you and I.

This is Shaima Alawadi.

  • She is a human being.
  • She is Iraqi. She is American. She is Iraqi-American.
  • She is a neighbor.
  • She is a daughter.
  • She is a mother…of 5 children.
  • She is a wife.
  • She is a friend.
She is also dead. Murdered.
A brief glimpse of her story:

Alawadi moved to the United States in 1993 with her family and was part of a wave of Shiite Muslim refugees who fled to Michigan after Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991.

After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school and became a housewife raising five children, Al-Zayadi said.

Al-Zayadi said Alawadi’s brothers worked for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East. Another family friend told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Alawadi’s husband had a similar job.

Shaima Alwadai, 32, was recently beaten to death – bludgeoned by a tire iron – in her own home in El Cajon (suburb of San Diego). Her body was first discovered by her 17 year old daughter and three days later, was taken off life support.

There was a note next to her body with these words:

“go back to your country, you terrorist”

God have mercy…

  • Take a moment to read her story.
  • Take a moment to stare at her face.
  • Take a moment to remember her name.
  • Take a moment to pray for her family.
And most importantly,

Let’s recommit ourselves:

to mercy, justice, and compassion. Recommit to loving our neighbors. Recommit to advocating, protecting, and building relationships.

As someone that’s heard that phrase countless times – especially as a youngster, “Go back to your country” – May we help build a country (and a world) where all are welcome and safe.


Here’s the news via CBS News:

EL CAJON, Calif. — A Muslim leader says that the body of an Iraqi-American woman who was found brutally beaten next to a note saying “go back to your country, you terrorist” will be flown to her home country for her funeral.

Shaima Alawadi, 32, was taken off life support on Saturday, three days after her 17-year-old daughter found her unconscious in the dining room of the family’s El Cajon home in suburban San Diego.

Investigators said they’re exploring all aspects of her slaying, including the possibility that the attack was a hate crime.

Alawadi’s father is a Shiite cleric in Iraq and the Iraqi government will pay for have her body sent back, a Muslim leader in Michigan told the Detroit Free-Press on Sunday.

“Everybody is outraged,” Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn said. “This is too evil, too criminal.”

The daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said “go back to your country, you terrorist.”

Police said the family had found a similar, threatening note earlier this month but did not report it to authorities.

Al Himidi told KGTV-TV her mother dismissed the first note, found outside the home, as a child’s prank.

Flowers were piled on the doorstep of the home Sunday. A neighbor said the family had moved in only a few weeks ago.

Friends said Alawadi wore a hijab, the Islamic head scarf.

Hayder Al-Zayadi, a family friend, told the Free-Press Alawadi moved to the United States in 1993 with her family and was part of a wave of Shiite Muslim refugees who fled to Michigan after Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991.

After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school and became a housewife raising five children, Al-Zayadi said.

Al-Zayadi said Alawadi’s brothers worked for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East. Another family friend told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Alawadi’s husband had a similar job.

El Cajon, northeast of downtown San Diego, is home to one of the largest Iraqi communities in the United States.

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29 Responses

  1. Be careful how you assume an American did this to her. She could have been a sacrifice on behalf of raising disention. Brainshashing is a serious matter. Who ever did this is an evil perpetrator of life but just becareful who you blame it on . Such as Tray did anyone notice the media announced the shooter murder was white. Everyone got on the bandwagon of race till they found out the shooter was hispanic. then the media did not correct their error they just said he was white hispanic. What the heck does that mean. It means liberal media is always on the bandwagon to insight race desention. Who through the note. Was there really a note found on her body? You can assume the teller of the story is correct but they were not there. I know of women whos own parents and brothers of Islam religion have beaten and stabbed then and stoned them to death here in this country. Where is their movement. Yeah the 16 year old American girl who did not want to follow in her islamic root a few years back was recorded on her cell phone pleading for her life as her dad and mom were killing her stabbing her. So do NOT assume who this murder could be. Do not assume the note is a viable reliable piece of evidence. test all spirits

  2. Joey McGee says:

    This sucks. How freaking depressing.

  3. kate says:

    All hate crimes are equal!

  4. Kate Green says:

    All hate is equal… only weak people hate.

  5. Darlene says:

    Eugene, thanks for this post and for reminding me that injustice toward ANY ethnicity or culture is worthy of our attention, time and energy. I am not sure what God is doing within me, but I am grateful that he is opening my eyes and my heart to care…

    • Eugene Cho says:

      I hate sharing these kind of posts…

      but they are a reality of our broken world.

      While we may be discouraged by such a broken world, let’s keep faith in the trajectory of shalom and justice. Let’s work with passion, grace, and courage knowing that God will restore all things…

  6. Debbie says:

    I second Darlene’s comment. Thanks Eugene for the post.

  7. ceweston says:

    maybe the same person who got her pregnant at age 15 is somehow responsible. is there a life insurance policy? motive will help us find the killer. we cannot assume anything. leaving a note is like leaving a fingerprint. the note will have to be analyzed in the lab, as will the body. 😦

  8. daniel so says:

    Eugene — Thank you so much for speaking out on Shaima’s behalf and for sharing her story. I am heartbroken and sick over what has happened.

    This hits close to home — El Cajon is just a couple of towns over from our church community here in SD. And I’m very familiar with Dearborn, MI — a suburb close to where I grew up.

    We are all so broken. Christ, have mercy.

  9. Jung-Hoon says:

    What an abomination before the Maker! Lord have mercy on us.

    “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor 4:7)

  10. Helen Bishop says:

    This is so sad and I am praying for truth and justice. This may or may not be a hate crime (some people are right it could be a set up) but either way it takes an evil person to do that and what about the 17 year old daughter who found her. What a horrible thing for a child to witness. I am praying that they will find the person/persons who did this. If it truly was a hate crime what stupidity to think such a thing.

  11. Why is it always so easy to hate…

  12. ApexNC says:

    I don’t think this was a hate crime, I think this was an honor killing disguised to be a hate crime.
    First of all they moved to an area with lots of other Iraqi’s, the most in the state. 2nd they had been there only a few weeks. If someone wanted to commit a murder b/c they were against terriosim, do you think they would break in and use a tire iron? Everything about this is fishy to me. Whoever broke in, broke a window and beat this poor woman to death and her 17 year old daughter heard nothing? Come on. I know there are some whack jobs out there who believe anyone who is Muslim is a terrorist, but San Diego is a pretty liberal place, and seeing someone wear a shall is not a big shocker to most. Plus, why target her? She has 5 kids and a husband, they’d really have to know everyone’s schedule to make sure they were not home. Lastly, the note. Really? Who was the guy writing to? To the woman he already killed?? Or was it to her remaining family? It really doesn’t make sense. Even the police say they believe it was an isolated incident (ie don’t worry everyone, we’re pretty sure there’s not a murder on the loose running around killing Muslims). They also won’t call it a “hate crime” b/c they are leaving all options open at this point.

  13. Tahsin Chowdhury says:

    Check out my OP-ED on Shaima Alawadi everyone.

    You’ll get a Muslim American’s Point of view on it!

  14. Scott M says:

    “Everybody is outraged,” Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn said. “This is too evil, too criminal.”

    Hmm… so very sad and unfortunate that this happened. But what about the way Moslems treat Christians in the middle east, specifically in Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan? So where is the Moslem outrage and the denunciation of hate crimes committed against Christians, their homes, and their churches?

    Of course I’m not saying two wrongs make a right, I just wanted to point out that justice and tolerance is a two way street people.

  15. As we observe this from the outside of the situation, I want to say just one thing: Remember Grace.

  16. human says:

    killing one innocent person is equivalent to killing all man kind
    On that account We ordained for the Children of Isra`il that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (5:32)

  17. human says says:

    i hope that person who killed that poor woman dies

  18. human says says:

    but i want him to die in pain for killing that poor incennot

  19. JT says:

    So Eugene, how’s this “hate crime” theory workin’ out for you?

  20. JTT says:

    Cho is a huckster who never updated this story.

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One Day’s Wages

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People often ask, "How does one stand all that rain in Seattle?" Actually, it doesn't rain that much. I like the rain. Keeps everything "evergreen" and clean. Keeps our air fresh. What's challenging is the gray weather. Give me a few more sunny days. 99 more days to be specific. 
Regardless, still love this city. Checking out Canada in case I need to move up North after the presidential election. Just saying, eh.

Downtown Toronto. Fascinating architecture. Amazed by the diversity of this city. We desperately want our children to not just be captivated by the beauty of creation...but more importantly, to the actual Creator of all that is good and beautiful.

Actually, we want and need this truth for our souls, too. What a privilege. This isn't possible without all those who give, pray, and support the work of @onedayswages. This week, I signed and mailed grants to three partner organizations totaling over $170,000. These grants will empower people by supporting maternal health care, refugee relief efforts, access to clean water, provide education, etc.

Sometimes, the brokenness of the world feel so overwhelming but let's keep running the race with endurance. Let's keep pursuing justice, mercy, and humility. Let's be faithful and may we be spurred on to keep working for God's Kingdom...on earth as it is in heaven.

Again, thank you so much for your support for @onedayswages! My wife, Minhee, and I stand on the shoulders of praying mothers. I'd like to take a moment to honor my mother-in-law. It's hard to put words together to embody her life but she is a very special, anointed person. I'm so blessed to have her as a mother in my life.

She was a devoted wife until she lost her husband to cancer, mother to three daughters, and later became a pastor. She became a follower of Christ as an adult and as such, led her her family to Christ. In her late 50s, she obeyed God's calling to go to seminary and be a leader in the church. She graduated #1 in her class and reminded us that it's never too late to follow a new dream or calling.

As she'll soon celebrate her 80th birthday, I'm especially grateful for the ways that she poured into and prayed over Minhee and her other children.  Even though she's officially retired, I'm inspired that the concept of retirement is not in her vocabulary.  She continues to serve the local church, evangelize and bear witness to Christ, and goes to the early morning prayer meeting at 5am everyday to pray for our family, our church, and for others. 
Jangmonim, we love and honor you. 어머니, 사랑합니다.

Someday, I hope that when my kids speak of Minhee and I...above all, they would say with integrity that their parents prayed for them and kept pointing them to Christ. On this Mother's Day, I want to take a few words to honor mother.

There’s a moment from a few years ago that will stick with me until the day I die. It’s regarding Sung Wha, my mother.

Minhee and I were at a point of transition, between working at an ethnic Korean church in the northern suburbs of Seattle called Lynnwood and launching Quest in urban Seattle. As I shared earlier, I was in desperate need of a job. I had a mortgage to pay. A pregnant wife. A kid at home. 
Then, praise God, after months without work, I finally landed a job.

My mom was in between jobs at this point in her life. She was in her late fifties, but she had such bad knees and degenerative hips that it was, and is, difficult for her to walk. My mom is like a human barometer—when a storm is coming and when it rains, her hips throb. Although my parents lived in San Francisco, she was visiting us in Seattle to encourage us in this difficult season.

As I prepared to go to work one early morning, I walked downstairs to put on my jacket and shoes, and forgot that my mother woke up early every morning to pray. In fact, she had been praying for months that I would find a job. “Eugene, where are you going?” she said when she saw me.

I hadn’t told my mother the news that I had just recently been hired for the janitorial gig at Barnes and Noble. I chose not to because I thought she and my father would be devastated. I didn’t want them to think that after laboring, sacrificing, and doing so much for us over all those years that their son had failed them.

But I couldn’t lie to her, so eventually I told my mom that I got a job and was going to work. “Great! What job? What are you doing?” “Um, I’m working at Barnes and Noble as their custodian,” I said finally.

Without asking another question, my mother got up from the dining table where she had been reading her Bible and praying. She slowly walked slowly toward me.

She approached me, then walked past me without saying a word, and I realized she was headed toward the closet. She opened the closet door, put on her jacket, turned around and said to me (in Korean), “Eugene, let’s go together. I will help you.” This is my mother.

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