Said Biyad and his wife Fatuma Amir and their four children came to the US in 2004. They were Somali Bantu’s. Their country had been torn by violence since 1991. The danger was so great that thousands fled Somali, hoping to escape the danger. In 2003, the United Nations stepped in to assist with the refugee problem. They began locating many refugees hoping to get them into a position where they could survive. Biyad and Amir ended up coming to the US.
When they arrived in Oregon, they set out to do as many of the refugees do. They began learning English, they got jobs, and they began making friends in Portland where they had settled including friends with other refugees who had settled there.
In many countries there are no laws against domestic violence. Considered a family problem, it was up to the extended family and friends to protect the victim and punish the abuser. And they typically do not discuss family issues outside the family. Also due to the violent state of their country, many refugees have had bad experiences with authority figures who often chose sides in the civil war and they retain fear of authority figures when they arrive in the US. Therefore, they arrive in the US, speaking little English, with a fear of authority figures, and knowing nothing about the US laws and even less about how to go about seeking help or where to ask for it.
In March of 2005, police were called to the home of Said Biyad and Fatuma Amir. In the police report it stated “Verbal-only argument. After initially leaving, (Amir) drank bleach and was transported by ambulance to the hospital.” It was known within the community that there was a problem with domestic violence in the family. And it was known that Biyad was very jealous, as he had complained of community members being too friendly with his wife. Some of the community were aware of the domestic violence and offered help, but Biyad told them to “stay out of it”.
At some point Fatuma Amir did reach out, requesting help from and Refugee Community Organization, but as so often happens, she withdrew her request.
Fatuma Amir did leave the home and lived on her own for a time in Portland Oregon. Then one day she was gone. Said Biyad attempted to call his home and received no answer. When he arrived at the home, no one was there and it wasn’t known where they had gone.
No one knew how she managed to transport herself and their children across the country to Kentucky, where Amir’s brother resided. And for a time, no one knew where they had gone. Then one day Biyad announced they had moved to Kentucky and that he was going to join them there. He did not say how he learned of their whereabouts, but he stated that Amir wanted him to come. Biyad sold his car and left for Kentucky.
Biyad was in Kentucky for several weeks with the family. Then one day he walked into the police station and told them he had just killed his family.
Reportedly he raped his wife and bludgeoned her with a hammer several times. Then he used a hunting knife to cut the throats of Goshany, Khadija, Fatuma and Sidi Ali ages ranging from 2 to 8 years of age. He told police he did it because his wife had been “disrespectful”.
Fatuma Amir was alive when police went to the home. She was transported to the hospital, and her condition is not being released per the families request.
Said Biyad has been charged with 4 counts of murder, and 1 count each of attempted murder, domestic rape, and 1st degree assault. The death penalty is a possibility.
Many countries do not have the laws to protect women or even children like the US has. And in many countries the man is expected to be the head of the family who makes all of the decisions for the family. I don’t know much about the Somalia culture, but I did pick up on a couple of things that stood out to me. A comment was made by one of the friends that when he had gone to the home, that Amir behaved deferentially. And several mentions was made of offers to help being made to Biyad. This leads me to believe that in that culture the man of the house is indeed the boss. That is not a problem as long as no violence occurs. It works in some cultures, even in some homes where it is not the cultural norm, as long as violence does not occur. If it works and both parties are ok with it, don’t change it is my feeling.
But if violence enters the relationship, if the man cannot place his family above the vague concept of ‘respect’ and ‘honor’, then persons outside the relationship must step in.
Some may see this as a cultural problem. But it is not. It happens in homes from this type of culture, yes. But it also happens in homes with different cultures.
Women in the US are supposed to be viewed as equals, that is our “cultural norm”. Yet many of the same ideals occur in US households. For example, infidelity is often considered to be worse if it is committed by a woman. The man is often thought of as the head of the household and he is expected to support the household or at least provide the majority of the support. Men are not thought to be abused in US households, or at least shouldn’t admit to it. They should “be a man” and stop it, or they should “be a man and take it”.
The struggle for dominance or equality in a home is a universal problem, not a cultural problem, though how it is handled in various cultures can be different.
And a big Thank You to D.P. for the tip on this one.