Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Palestinian-American stabbed in West Campus, Hate Crimes Review Committee to investigate incident

Manoo Sirivelu
Nizar Doar, father of the victim Zacharia Doar, speaks at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ press conference on Tuesday. Nizar was also head of security for the state-wide Palestine rally two days earlier.

The Austin Police Department is investigating the stabbing of a Palestinian-American man in West Campus on Sunday as “bias-motivated,” and the incident will be reviewed by the Hate Crimes Review Committee, according to a press release.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization, called Monday for the assault to be investigated as a hate crime. Tuesday, CAIR released a statement welcoming APD’s “confirmation of bias motivation.”

The suspect, Bert James Baker, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault on Sunday. 

Hours after attending a state-wide rally in support of Palestine, 23-year-old Zacharia Doar and his three friends were in a car with a keffiyeh reading ‘Free Palestine’ attached to a flagpole, according to a statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Baker allegedly ripped the flagpole off the car, opened the passenger side door and pulled one of the men out while yelling racial obscenities, according to the statement. 

The other passengers got out of the car to fight off Baker, and Baker stabbed Doar in the lower chest during the altercation. 

Two UT alumni, Maryam S. and her husband, Suhaib S., who asked to be referred to by only their first names for anonymity, drove past the scene and noticed two men holding Baker down, Maryam said. Doar walked past their car wearing a blood-soaked shirt with a stab wound on his lower chest. 

“(Doar) was clearly disoriented and about to fall over, so we were holding him up and making sure he didn’t move so that there wasn’t any more damage done,” Maryam said. “He was saying ‘I feel like there’s blood in my lungs.’”

She said her husband used a keffiyeh tied on the victims’ car to stop the bleeding, and she called emergency services. According to the statement from the Council, Doar broke his rib and went through surgery on Monday. Zacharia’s father, Nizar Doar, said his son will fully recover in about six weeks.

The Council hosted a press conference demanding the incident be investigated as a hate crime on Tuesday outside Austin City Hall. 

Nizar Doar served as the head of security for the statewide Palestine protest on Sunday. Nizar said he convinced Zacharia to come to Austin for the protest. He said sometime after Zacharia left to eat with friends, Nizar got a phone call saying his son was stabbed. He immediately thought of how he would tell Zacharia’s wife and 5-month-old baby about the stabbing. 

“I came to protect our people and I failed to protect my son,” said Nizar Doar. 

Austin City Council member Zohaib Qadri said he visited Zacharia in the hospital to express his remorse to the family. He said he considers this a hate crime which could make Muslims and Arabs across Austin feel unsafe. 

“My heart is breaking for anyone who went to bed last night a little bit more afraid than they did before,” Qadri said at the conference. 

Several speakers at the press conference mentioned how the incident echoed other instances of Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate across the country, like the stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian boy in Chicago and the shooting of three Palestinian students in Vermont.

Mustafaa Carroll, the Council on American-Islamic Relations interim executive director, said Islamophobic incidents increased by over 200% in the past year. He said it remains important to classify this incident as a hate crime and deliver justice since it contributes to a larger pattern of racism.

“It’s in the law enforcement team and the district attorney’s hands now, and we will be following up,” Carroll said. “This is not going to just go by the wayside.”

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