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July 8, 2010

An American Honor Killing

jim heinrich

"Students rarely bring who they are at home into the classroom. Noor never shared her distress with me." —Jim Heinrich, Noor's photography teacher

Photo Credit: Brent Humphreys

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The final blowup came that summer. In June 2009, longtime family friend Amal Khalaf awoke to find Noor sleeping in the family's van, parked in the driveway. Noor said her parents had hit her; Amal, a mother of four, took her in. To Noor's family, this was the ultimate indignity: Their daughter had chosen to live with another Iraqi family instead of her own.

On July 20, Noor's parents entered Amal's home unannounced and began banging on Amal's bedroom door. Amal dialed 911. After that, Noor's father started regularly harassing the family. Amal's husband, Reikan, explained to him that Noor was free to live where she chose. "This is America," he said, according to police records. "This is the freedom we have."

To complicate matters further, in the weeks that followed, a romance developed between Noor and Amal's son Marwan (with Marwan even claiming at one point that the two were engaged). When Noor's father found out, he threatened that if she did not leave that house, "something bad was going to happen." Noor filed for a restraining order, but seems never to have finalized the paperwork.

On October 19, the day before her father headed for her in the parking lot, Noor sent dozens of text messages to friends, making plans and reminiscing. "Hey dude," she wrote to a pal at 2:47 p.m. "Do you have plans for Halloween? I'm throwing a party ... You should dress up and come. Bring people."

At 2:23 a.m., she sent a more sentimental note to a childhood friend: "Dude I felt very blah a while ago so I went driving ... by my old house in Glendale and my old school. I remember being a cute little kid and wearing a backpack. Remember wearing our Jansport backpacks? You had the nice one with flames lol. Jerk. I wanted to be hot like you and have flames lol."

The next day, Noor and Amal were in the local welfare office when Noor's father suddenly appeared. In a panic, Noor texted a friend, "I'm with my aunt at the welfare place and guess who walks in? My dad!!! I'm so shaky!" She then added, "My dad is a manipulative asshole. I've honestly never met anyone with so much evil." Amal didn't think it was a coincidence that Noor's father had just shown up, and she directed Noor to ask an employee if they could exit through a rear door. "He will probably just spit on me and leave," Noor said. And then, just as suddenly, he was gone.

As the two women were leaving, Amal scanned the parking lot. With Noor's father nowhere in sight, they started walking across the lot toward Carolina's Mexican restaurant.

After Noor and Amal were hit by the Jeep, police began a manhunt for the driver of the car. They started at the Almaleki family home, where a Domino's Pizza truck had just turned into the driveway. Noor's teenage brother Ali was there with several siblings, according to police reports. He said he hadn't spoken to his father since that morning, and that he didn't want to "get involved."

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