‘Horrific day:’ Family member of Somali women says they feared for lives in attack

‘Horrific day:’ Family member of Somali women says they feared for lives in attack

EDMONTON — A family member of two Somali women who were attacked in a mall parking lot says they thought they were going to be killed.

The woman, who was part of an online news conference Wednesday by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said she was speaking anonymously because she’s concerned about her family’s safety.

“I am the daughter of one of the victims of this brutal attack and the sister of the other,” she told the news conference.

“As racism and Islamophobia increases here in Alberta and across the whole of Canada and in various parts of the world, we are taking every possible precaution to protect the dignity and well-being of my family.”

Police have said two women wearing hijabs were sitting in a car in the lot at Southgate Mall in Edmonton on Dec. 8 when a man came up to the passenger side and began screaming. They said the man shattered a window, then chased and knocked the passenger to the ground as she tried to run away.

The second woman tried to help, but she was also pushed to the ground as she tried to stop the assault.

The family member said she believes she almost lost her mother and sister that day.

“While I am full of gratitude that they are here with us today, we all bear scars from this horrific day that we’ll carry with us forever,” she said.

The woman said she wanted people to know more about her mother and sister.

“The two Black Canadian Muslim women … are strong and powerful and brave survivors,” she said, noting her family has lived in Alberta for generations and always felt at home.

“We never questioned whether we belonged here until the day of this vicious attack.”

The woman said her mother and sister were met with extreme violence and hate when they were attacked by two suspects who she believes were motivated by Islamophobia and racism.

“The verbal abuse and racial slurs used during this incident only compounds the extreme trauma and isolation that this incident has caused my family,” she said. Some of those slurs, she noted, were: “You don’t belong here, go back to your country and I’m going to kill you.”

The woman said her mother, who is the strongest woman she knows, had her hijab forcibly removed andcould only beg and plead for help as she was being attacked.

“These men threatened the lives and safety of my mother and my sister for being visibly Black and visibly Muslim,” she said. “They shattered the illusion of our safety and made us feel like strangers in the only place we have ever known.”

Her sister, she added, said her attacker had hatred in his eyes.

“His physical action and aggression made her believe he was going to kill them both.”

Richard Bradley Stevens, 41, has been charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief in the attack.

Police have not said there was a second attacker, but said in an email that a complete investigation that included interviews with witnesses and review of security cameras has been done.

“It was determined that there is no evidence to support laying charges against a second individual in this disturbing incident.”

Police have encouraged anyone who has more information to report it.

Sameha Omer, who is the council’s director of legal affairs, said the problem hasn’t be solved by the charges.

“We ignore the existence of white supremacists and Islamophobes at our peril,” said Omer, who added that attacks will happen as long as there isn’t action to prevent extremist groups from operating.

The council is asking municipal and provincial politicians to form a plan to stop street harassment and end racist violence in Alberta. It wants white supremacist groups dismantled and is urging Canadians to donate to victims of such violence.

“There is no place for such intolerance and hate in our communities,” said Omer. “Now more than ever we need to take a stand.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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