On January 1, 2008, two American teenager sisters, 17 year-old Amina Said, and 18 year-old Sarah Said, were shot to death by their Egyptian father, Yaser Said, in Irving, Texas. After a lifetime of being physically and sexually abused by their father, the girls had finally decided to run away.
Sarah had rejected an arranged marriage with a much-older friend of her father’s whom she had never met. Both Amina and Sarah had boyfriends—and thus, their father viewed them as “whores” who had disobeyed the rules and who therefore deserved to die.
Yaser fled after the murder and has yet to be found.
The FBI briefly included him on their Most Wanted List for an Honor Killing but within days, they dropped the “honor killing” charge.
At the time, I was told that political pressure, mainly brought to bear by CAIR, (the Muslim Brotherhood in America), was responsible. Perhaps, fears of being charged with “Islamophobia” stayed the hand of local law enforcement and of the FBI.
Based on my own academic studies in Middle East Quarterly, there is no doubt that this was an classic honor killing.
Now, their great-aunt, Jill Abplanalp, has launched a petition on Change.org imploring the authorities to arrest Patricia “Tissie” Said, the mother of Amina and Sarah.
She has also written to me and to many Texas law enforcement officers about this matter. She wants “justice” for the murdered girls. She wants their mother, “Tissie,” tried as an accomplice she seems to be. But Jill is afraid that authorities will never revisit the case due to the kind of pressure they have experienced in the past.
Texas-born Patricia (“Tissie”) Said, the mother of the two girls, should long ago have been charged as an accomplice in their honor killing. She is the one who tricked them, first by running away with them—and then by luring them back home in a series of phone calls.
Tissie assured her frightened and savvy daughters that their father would not kill them, that it could all be straightened out, and that she, their mother, needed them by her side when she visited the grave of their grandmother to place flowers on it.
In an e-mail sent to Jill, dated April 30, 2012, Detective Joe Hennig, the police officer in charge of the investigation, was sympathetic to the fact that Jill is “having a hard time dealing with their deaths.” He said he was “truly sorry for her loss,” but that there is “not enough evidence” to make such an arrest. “She (Tissie) may be guilty of making some bad decisions or having bad judgment…but there are no criminal charges that can be filed against her.”
According to great aunt Jill, there are three witnesses who can testify that, although Tissie ran away with her daughters, she did so in order to spy on them for Yaser; that all along, Tissie had planned to return to her husband—which she did. She knew that Yaser planned to kill his daughters. And nevertheless, upon her return, she started calling her daughters persistently.
Detective Hennig insists that they have “no proof” that “Tissie” knew Yaser would kill them.
The three witnesses disagree: the two boys who ran away with the girls and their great aunt in Kansas (to whom they ran). They saw “Tissie” in action. They heard “Tissie” say that “if she took Amina and Sarah back to Texas that Yaser would definitely kill them.”
More important, when I asked Jill for physical evidence, such as phone records of Tissie’s persistent calls, great aunt Jill assured me that they exist. She writes:
“Amina had a cell phone that her boyfriend had gotten her, which her father, Yaser did not know about. The calls are on his bill. Yes, he has phone records.”
Jill also tells me that shortly before the murders, “Tissie" had Amina withdraw her last savings out of the bank and give it to her mother. Jill says that there is a receipt for this suspicious bank transaction.
I have not seen any of this evidence but if it exists—The Irving police should seriously review it.
Here are two things I do know:
First, fears of being seen as “anti-Muslim” or “anti-Islam” led to a bench rather than a jury trial in Ohio in the 1999 murder of Methel Dayem case—and to a conviction of “not guilty.”
In 2009, such fears led to charging Faleh-al Maleki in Arizona with second degree murder, as opposed to first degree murder—and he ran over his daughter, Nur, with a two-ton Cherokee Jeep.
Second, European law enforcement is far more evolved in terms of how it understands and prosecutes honor killings. In Europe, honor killings are recognized as collaborative conspiracies that involve multiple family members, including mothers and sisters.
In 2006, Danish authorities convicted nine members of a clan for the honor murder of Gazala Khan.
In 2009, a German court sentenced a father to life-in-prison for having ordered his son to murder his sister.
On May 17, 2012, five siblings, including two sisters, were sentenced in Germany for the honor killing of their 18-year-old Kurdish-Yazidi-sister.
In New York State, “Accomplice liability is established when one person engages in conduct which constitutes an offense, and the defendant," acting with the mental culpability required for the commission thereof . . . solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or intentionally aids such person to engage in such conduct" (PL §20.00). Thus, in order to be liable as an accomplice one must act with the same intent or purpose as the principal. (see People v. Kaplan, 76 NY2d 140, 144-45 ). Intent may be established by the act itself, or inferred from both conduct and circumstances surrounding a particular offense (see People v. Bracey, 41 NY2d 296, 301 ).”
I do not know the law in Texas. But surely, there is one for accomplices.
I call upon the Irving Police Department and Greg Abbot, the Attorney General of Texas, to look into this matter.
Great Aunt Jill cannot live with herself until she has obtained “justice” for her nieces who were American citizens but who have, so far, not been protected by American law.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies. She is the author of 4 studies about honor killings and 16 books.