On Sunday, Virginia police announced the discovery of remains that they believe to be that of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, who was last seen in the early morning hours of Sunday with her friends outside of an IHOP after breaking her Ramadan fast. Although the official medical report is pending, detectives told Hassanen’s family the teenager had been struck in the head with a metal bat. Police have arrested and charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres with her murder but have made it clear that they are not investigating the killing as a hate crime.
According to a statement Hassanen’s friend gave to the local sheriff’s office, the teenagers had been attending midnight prayers when they left the mosque and went to the restaurant. Upon leaving the IHOP, the group was approached by a strange motorist who began shouting. Running to the mosque for safety, Hassanen’s companions realized once they had made it back that Hassanen had been left behind. The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) immediately alerted the authorities.
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” said Rizwan Jaka, chairman of ADAMS. With a recent string of domestic and international attacks targeting Muslims, Hassanen’s death has the community concerned. “People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer and member of Hassanen’s mosque.
“There is absolutely no place for this kind of violence in our Commonwealth,” said Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in a statement given once Hassanen’s remains had been found. “Every Virginian should feel safe and welcome in our communities.” Hassanen’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar, told authorities that Hassanen did not usually wear traditional Muslim clothes but that she had loaned her daughter an abaya to wear that evening. Gazzar said that detectives told her once the man in the car started yelling at the teenagers, Hassanen had tripped on the garment and fallen. “I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim,” Gazzar said in an interview with The Washington Post, “What did my daughter do to deserve this?” For more on the story, watch the video below.