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Filmmaker Usama Alshaibi Viciously Assaulted In Hate Crime Attack

Filmmaker Usama Alshaibi wearing Iraqi fashion

Iraqi-American filmmaker Usama Alshaibi was viciously attacked and beaten Saturday night in an apparent hate crime attack. While attempting to attend a party in Fairfield, Iowa — where he’s been residing with his wife Kristie since last summer — Alshaibi was repeatedly punched and kicked by a group of men spouting racial epithets.

Alshaibi was walking home by himself after midnight after having dinner with friend Manuel Tsingaris. Passing by one house out of which he heard loud noises, the filmmaker asked a woman standing outside where the party was going on.

When the woman told him the party was upstairs, Alshaibi attempted to enter whereupon he was asked what his name was. When he answered “Usama,” he was immediately punched in the face. Four young men then started calling Alshaibi a “sand nigger” and “Usama Bin Laden” while ferociously beating him. After falling to the ground, the men continued to kick him.

Eventually making his way to the parking lot of Family Video, the store manager called 911 and Alshaibi called his dinner friend Tsingaris to help him.

Usama Alshaibi with a bloody face after being beaten

According to press reports, the Fairfield police are treating this incident as a hate crime. However, at this time, there is little to go on to find the assailants as Alshaibi was completely disoriented following the attack.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1969, Alshaibi spent his childhood both in his home country and in Iowa. For much of his adult life, he has lived in Chicago, Illinois where he has made dozens of acclaimed and controversial films, including the award-winning documentary Nice Bombs, about his and Kristie’s visit to his relatives in Iraq following the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

Most recently, Alshaibi has been working on a follow-up documentary called American Arab, which hopes to shed light on the frequently maligned and misunderstood Arab community in the U.S. The film is being produced through Chicago’s Kartemquin Films, which last year awarded Alshaibi their first ever Diversity Fellowship that is  given to minority filmmakers. Kartemquin’s Executive Director, Justine Nagan, has issued a statement of support.

The Underground Film Journal has been a big supporter of Alshaibi’s for years and considers him one of our country’s most important filmmakers, so we are exceptionally saddened and sickened by this incident. In addition to American Arab, Alshaibi has also recently finished the fictional film Profane, which recently made its World Premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and will be making its U.S. Premiere at the Boston Underground Film Festival later this month. I hope to have a review up of Profane in the coming days.

Alshaibi’s Nice Bombs and a short film compilation DVD are  available to buy or rent on Amazon and Netflix.

Also, Alshaibi’s family have started a blog to help raise funds for his medical and legal bills.

Underground Film Feedback (12 comments)

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  • BM says:

    Ugh. Saddening and sickening indeed. This really bums me out.

  • LK says:

    Why do all of these stories fail to note that this man walked into a random home uninvited and intoxicated after midnight? I am not doubting that he was assaulted, but I find it kind of strange how much press he is seeking in this instance. Personal responsibility is something we all need to own, and if I walked into a party uninvited and drunk I would probably get my ass kicked as well. I wish him well in his recovery but some responsibility falls on the gentleman for trespassing and being so intoxicated that he didn’t know which home he was in.

    • 1. I did note that he entered a home uninvited in the above article. Alshaibi has always said he entered a home uninvited. It’s part of the story everywhere you read it. I also mentioned the time of the incident. Apparently, you know all these facts, yet accuse “the press” of not telling you them. How else do you know of these facts if you didn’t read them in news stories?

      2. He is not “seeking” press. He hasn’t contacted me and never asked me to write anything about this incident. I wrote about this because it’s a serious story and he’s an important filmmaker I write about often on the site.

      3. He was not “so intoxicated” that he can’t remember the location of the incident. He can’t remember due to the trauma he suffered, which is common of victims of this type of assault. If he had been drinking and not assaulted, he could tell you where this house was. He wasn’t stumbling around in a daze not knowing where he was. He was walking from a restaurant to his home. He knew exactly where he was until the assault.

      4. No, I don’t think he bears any “responsibility” for being assaulted. If he wasn’t welcome in the home — for whatever reason — he could have been simply asked to leave. He didn’t break into somebody’s home. He wasn’t being aggressive. He walked into a home that was hosting a party. While I personally think his judgment was off, that doesn’t mean he “deserved” to be sent to the hospital. I don’t happen to side with violent, racist offenders.

  • BM says:

    Totally, Mike. It’s 2011. I like to think of humans as civilized beings and civilized means treating others in a civil and respectful fashion. This kind of stuff makes me reconsider my position.

  • B. Dahlia says:

    It’s a town next to a college. Has anybody ever been to a college town? Everyone crashes parties. It’s a common thing. He wasn’t being assaulted for crashing a party, he was assaulted for being arab by some ignorant, racist hicks.

  • LK says:

    I am not siding with racist, violent, ignorant offenders. Having been the victim of assault on several occasions I do not find it humorous or entertaining. Lets get that straight before I even begin typing this.

    The facts that are being reported are coming directly from the victim. A victim whom broke the law entering someones home uninvited, and intoxicated. I applaud the fact that unlike many of rural Iowans this man didn’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive. However, what is a successful 41 year old married man doing wanting to party with random teenagers in an unfamiliar location? Stay off the streets and home with your family and I doubt any of these transgressions would have occurred.

    I am not having problems with the police getting involved, I am having an issue with the term “Hate Crime.” Considering all of the facts that have been presented by Usama himself he stumbled into someones home and got violently escorted out. I feel the term “Hate Crime” should be reserved for instances in which people are sought out specifically due to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. My post above was primarily to point out that I am sure I would have been treated the same way had I walked into these peoples homes uninvited and intoxicated after midnight. Look up “Beat Whitey Night” and see if any of the citizens involved seeking people to assault were charged with a Hate Crime. They were not, and if those instances that took place at the Iowa State Fair against innocent people leaving a public setting are not a “Hate Crime” then this instance sure as hell is not either.

    I have been watching some of his clips on his blogspot and find it interesting the term Hate Crime comes up several times in one of his trailers. The instances were referring to racial/religion motivated crimes in which the individuals were sought out for the attack or harassment. Keywords: Sought out

    “The racist and hate of Tea Baggers and Right Wing Republicans”
    “Women say goodbye to your vaginas, the Republicans own them now.”

    This is coming directly from Usama’s Twitter page. I find it quite interesting that a gentlemen who is peaceful and apparently understanding of prejudice is willing to judge all Republicans in such a dim light. I am guessing Usama doesn’t like to be judged for race or affiliation, but has no problem judging and grouping those he is not in political agreement with.

    I know I am ranting at this point.. I just have been doing a lot of reading on this story as I have had some free time this week. I wish you well in your recovery Usama, and please do not take this response as a form of hate towards you. I respect what you are doing with your documentaries as I feel you have kind hearted motivation behind your work. However, stretching the “Hate Crime” law is not something that should be taken with a smile. This my friend was not a “Hate Crime Attack” this most likely would have happened to any person whom walked into that home uninvited that evening. If “Beat Whitey Night” at the State Fair was not prosecuted as such, then this should go down as Aggravated Assault causing Bodily Injury.

    p.s. I never stated he “deserved” this, I simply said he should take some (not all) responsibility for what happened.

    • You’re right. You are ranting and I’m not quite sure what you are getting at. You say you are not siding with violent people, but then you say “I am sure I would have been treated the same way had I walked into these peoples homes uninvited and intoxicated after midnight.”

      I think it’s then logical to conclude that you think it’s ok and expected for people to act violently and use extreme racist language. And if you’re so upset by the term “hate crime,” you didn’t even mention it in your first post.

      I’ve hosted parties myself when I was younger and in a college town where it was perfectly fine for people wandering by to come in where there would be no threat of violence. So, we have a different opinion on that.

      From the attacker’s language, it doesn’t sound like they beat Alshaibi for entering the party. They attacked him based on his name and appearance. I don’t know the legal definition of “hate crime” — and I’m not a news organization — but attacking somebody for that reason is how I’ve decided to characterize this story.

  • LK says:

    Having just watched the video on your main page I feel I need to add something else…

    “I don’t know what these stupid Republican Jerks think”

    Usama this is in direct contradiction to your point in the video. You are upset that people are calling all Muslims terrorists correct? Well you yourself are claiming that all Republicans feel the way the Tea Party does. These Tea Party activists are composed of an extremely small population of Republicans.

    Please open your mind and thoughts to people of all political affiliation. Realize that there are groups of radicals in every religion, race, political party that shed negative light. To group all Republicans with the ignorant people protesting Anti-Muslim sentiments is simply unfair.

    • When Alshaibi uses the term “I don’t know what these stupid Republican Jerks think” in his video, he’s clearly referring to the Republican elected officials who spoke at that hate-filled rally. He’s not speaking about all Republicans.

      Also, his Tweets that you refer to usually refer to specific pieces of Republican legislation. My reading of his more broad-based comments are that he’s speaking about Republican politicians. A Tweet consists of only 140 characters, so I think it’s ok that not every one comes with an additional disclaimer about his broad political views.

  • C says:

    This isn’t the first time Usama has found trouble while drinking. He likes conflict and certainly likes to be the center of ANY attention. I personally think he left Chicago to move to a small town where he can be a big fish in a little pond. Usama, I’m embarrassed for you because you don’t have enough common sense to know when to stop! Going as far as filing a police report to further your cause, be it your film or just your need to be portrayed as a victim! How perfect you would use these alleged events to parallel yourself with growing Muslim hate in small town America, your pathetic!!! Maybe instead of setting up a donation site for your hospital bills and grief you should attend a free AA meeting. I’ve known you a long time as well as plenty of others, your actions are very transparent!!!

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