Editor’s note: Readers, on Friday a car crash in Columbus, Ohio involving a police cruiser and a car carrying an Iraqi family resulted in the deaths of the car’s occupants—an Iraqi refugee family, a husband and wife and four of their children. ‘Pungentpeppers,’ a reader and frequent commenter here at RRW, has penned this piece after reading the many news accounts of what happened raising the ever-controversial issue of whether certain immigrants could be more appropriately (and more economically) helped by leaving them in their own countries or cultural zones.
“A Child Bride And Her Four Dead Daughters”
In Ohio, six members of one Iraqi refugee family died last week in an automobile accident. It seems unfair to write about the dead. They cannot defend themselves or explain. But there were children who were wronged. Their story must be told.
News about the tragedy uncovered certain facts. Those facts reveal that our efforts to bring this family to our country were misguided. The family, coming from a tribal background, either ignored, or could not understand, our system of values. Our laws requiring the protection of children – and granting important human and civil rights to daughters – were violated. Since the gap between our values and theirs was so huge, instead of bringing this family to the U.S., it would have been better to send aid to help them rebuild their lives in their own country. They might have lived. Here is the family’s story.
The accident scene: The cruiser’s dash camera revealed that the car driven by Eid Shahad had made an illegal turn on a red light.
Officer Shawn Paynter might never be able to forget what happened during the early morning hours of Friday, October 18. He was on duty with the Upper Arlington Police Department near Columbus, Ohio. That Friday, at 1:30 a.m., he was responding to an armed robbery in progress at a local McDonalds. His police cruiser approached an intersection and entered just as the light turned yellow. A Toyota Corolla, making an illegal turn, entered the intersection against a red light, and stopped right in front of him. His car collided with the Toyota. All six persons in the Toyota died at the scene. None wore seat belts. Officer Paynter survived. He suffered a head injury and is expected to recover.
Among the dead was Entisar Hameed, age 31, the mother of eight children. She had arrived from Basra, Iraq, via Syria, as a refugee three years ago. She was seated in the front. Her husband, Eid Shahad, 39, was driving. It was Eid Al-Adha, a four-day long Islamic holiday. At that late hour they were returning home from a holiday visit on Thursday night to another family of newly-arrived Iraqis. The mother had brought her four daughters with them for the visit: Shuaa, 16, Amna, 14, Ekbal, 12, and 2-year-old Lina Badi. The girls were in the back seat of the Toyota. Not one was buckled in and the youngest girl, Lina, was not in a car seat. There would have been no room for a car seat, anyway, with so many children packed into a small car. In addition to her daughters who died with her, Entisar left behind four sons. Her eldest, Mushary, was 17, and the other boys were 5, 6, and 12.
After the accident, acquaintances and friends spoke in glowing terms about the husband and father. Eid worked as a home health aide for Sunrise Health Care; among his patients was his 77-year-old mother who had suffered a stroke.* Eid was active and well liked. He helped newly arrived immigrants from Iraq and other countries become acclimated to the U.S. For example, he was known to take people grocery shopping and helped fix their cars. He planned to help sponsor a new family** of Iraqi refugees that were due to arrive next month through the agency that had brought his family, Ohio’s Community Immigration Refugee Services.
In contrast, there was nothing reported in the news about Entisar, the mother who died, except her name and age. Entisar – her name means “Victory” in Arabic – seems to have lived a hard life. She was married at around age 13, below the age of consent in Iraq, but not uncommon for a Muslim girl in Basra. If she had been living in the U.S. at that time of her marriage, it’s likely that her husband would have been thrown in prison for having sexual relations with a minor. Instead, our country decided to look the other way and allowed the family to immigrate – there is one set of laws for immigrants and another for Americans. Once married, young Entisar gave birth to one child after another. Her eighth baby, Lina, was born in the U.S.
In Ohio, Entisar lived with her husband, their eight children, and her sick mother-in-law, all packed into one small apartment. Money had to have been tight – home health aides do not earn much – certainly not enough to support a large family of eleven. The housing complex where they lived was full of Somali refugees who did not speak Arabic, so there was not much company there. Instead she had the company of her daughters.
The eldest boy, Mushary, was a senior at a local high school. None of the daughters, however, were in school. After they arrived in the U.S., some of the girls had been enrolled in Westside Academy, a school that describes itself as being globally conscious and even offers Arabic as a foreign language. They later transferred to the International Academy of Columbus, run under the direction of Dr. Mouhamed Tarazi, and improved their English, but – per the Columbus Dispatch – they left that school earlier this year. The story says the girls were to be “home-schooled by their parents”. But it was doubtful that these girls were receiving any sort of significant education at home. The father had a job and besides he was very busy helping others in the community. And since their mother had been married when barely a teen herself, what sort of age-appropriate schooling would she have been able to give the girls who were 16, 14, and 12? It is apparent that despite being in America – where both girls and boys go to school – Entisar’s daughters were headed down a traditional path of life that paralleled their mother’s.
Plainly, while they lived, nobody was checking up on this family of refugees to see how they were doing. Were they sending their daughters to school? No. Did their children wear seat belts or use car seats? No. Did the father understand traffic laws? No. What conditions were they living in? Eleven people in one small apartment. Refugees coming from certain backgrounds have too big a learning curve and too many obstacles to overcome. Sadly, these same obstacles may have contributed to this family’s deaths. America was not the best place for them.
* This practice of setting up immigrant-run home health services (with government support) and then being paid to care for one’s own elderly (or ailing) family members is one area of potential fraud going forward as the US tackles the enormous health care problems associated with socialized medicine for all.
** The mention of “sponsoring” a new family does not mean what the average reader might be thinking—that somehow one family is helping pay for the resettlement of another family. You, the taxpayer are doing the paying, the “sponsoring” family would likely be just acting as mentors. And, sadly in this case, be teaching the new family how to get around American values.
For your further study, here are ‘pungentpeppers’ sources for this guest column:
Teen cares for family
About the burial on Saturday
About the six who died
ohio teen left to care
10TV story saying father’s employment