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July 8, 2010

An American Honor Killing

rudabeh shahbazi

"It's hard to know what's appropriate when you have a foot in two worlds, as Noor did. Are you too American or not American enough?" —Rudabeh Shahbazi, an Iranian-American TV personality in Phoenix

Photo Credit: Brent Humphreys

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Police also spoke with Noor's mother, Seham, who was on her way home from her job in California. When a detective said that her husband had struck Noor and Amal with his car, she grew angry, saying in reference to Amal, "This woman is a liar. She is dirty." The detective then said that Noor was "close to dying," and Seham appeared to misunderstand. "Thank you. Thank you," she said. "That's what she needs. This is what Amal needs." The detective decided that Noor's safety could be in jeopardy and declined to disclose her location. A frustrated Seham shouted, "I'm a danger? We are Muslim. We can't kill our daughter!" The police stationed officers outside Noor's hospital room.

In the days that followed, Noor underwent spinal surgery, but remained unconscious, unresponsive, and unable to breathe on her own. As she struggled for life, police records indicate that her family tried to help her father flee abroad. Noor's mother picked up a prescription for him at a pharmacy, and cell-phone records showed that Ali, despite what he initially told the police, had, in fact, spoken with his father on two different occasions within minutes of the crime. However, both Ali and his mother denied knowing of Faleh's whereabouts.

Faleh had escaped south to Mexico. From there he flew to London, where he was finally picked up by customs officials. Nine days after the crime, he was back in the States and being interviewed by detectives. In that conversation, he admitted striking Noor and Amal, saying, "I lost control" and that it was "kind of an accident." But he denied trying to murder his daughter. "Why would I do it with a vehicle?" he asked. It would make more sense to "buy a gun," he reasoned. He went on to say that in his culture, a daughter should not leave home, should not be too "Americanized." The detective reminded him that Noor was an adult and that, by law, she could live where she wanted. Later, Faleh equated Noor to a "small fire" that needed to be extinguished in order to keep the family home from burning down.

At the hospital, during a supervised family visit, a police officer observed that Noor's heartbeat nearly doubled when her mother touched her and spoke in Arabic. A nurse ordered Noor's mother not to touch her daughter again.

Around 7 a.m. on November 2, 2009, Noor was pronounced clinically brain dead. Several hours later, at her family's request, she was disconnected from life support. At 11:54 a.m., her heart stopped beating.

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