Filmmaker says 1st name ‘Usama’ led to beating
7:21 p.m. CST, March 7, 2011
He chronicled war-torn Iraq through the eyes of its citizens, but filmmaker Usama Alshaibi says he didn’t feel the sting of violence until he crashed a house party last weekend in the tiny Iowa town of Fairfield.
“Right when I walked in, somebody asked me my name. . .and I said, ‘My name is Usama.’ That’s when they started hitting me,” said Alshaibi, 41, who lived in Chicago for 16 years, and directed and starred in the acclaimed “Nice Bombs.”
One of four men punched Alshaibi in the face, knocking off his eyeglasses. Three others joined in, punching Alshaibi in the face and head, knocking him down, he said.
“I was pretty scared, and I felt like I had gotten myself in a bad situation,” Alshaibi said.
If the reason for the punch was unclear in those first seconds, Alshaibi said he knew when his attackers started calling him Osama bin Laden and racial slurs.
“I clearly remember the racial slurs. That stuck out,” he said. “It seemed like they were very angry and very hateful because of my name and because of who I was.”
A native of Iowa City, a college town six times bigger than Fairfield, Alshaibi said party hopping, sharing drink and joke with total strangers, was a tradition in his hometown. Because of this, he said he felt nothing amiss when the friendly woman standing outside the house with loud music seemingly gave him the all-clear to join the festivities.
“If they felt like I shouldn’t have been there, they could have called the cops. I wasn’t out to hurt anyone,” Alshaibi said.”I wasn’t trying to do anything but hang out with people.”
Alshaibi said his memory of the incident was foggy, not only because of the hard hits to his face but also because he and a friend had a few drinks before he ventured into the party. He said he briefly lost consciousness during the attack, which he believes lasted about 10 minutes.
Blood streaming down his face, Alshaibi said he managed to run out and call his friend from a nearby parking lot. The friend snapped a photo of a battered Alshaibi.
Police say they have driven Alshaibi around the neighborhood but haven’t yet found the site of the party. Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey said her department was investigating the incident as a hate crime and was canvassing the neighborhood.
Harvey said her officers know the area where they believe the attack happened, but have little evidence aside from Alshaibi’s injuries.
Alshaibi and his wife Kristie left Chicago last summer for Fairfield, a city of just under 10,000 people, for her studies and for a “different pace of life” as he finishes a second documentary, he said. The attack has Alshaibi considering moving again.
“I came here feeling this was a safe and good place to be. Now I don’t feel that,” he said. “I feel weird.”
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