A coalition of Iranian-American organizations, including Iranian Alliances Across Borders, Iranian American Bar Association, the National Iranian American Council, PARS Equality Center, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, released the following statement calling for a full investigation into the brutal murder of 22-year-old Iranian-American student Shayan Mazroei by avowed white supremacist, Craig Tanber, 37, last month. Mazroei was stabbed to death after Tanber’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Thornburg, accused him of being a terrorist:
“A 22-year-old Iranian-American, Shayan Mazroei, was stabbed to death by a member of an Orange County white supremacist gang, “PEN1,” over the Labor Day holiday weekend last month. Shayan was a student at Saddleback College, where he was studying mechanical engineering, and had just opened his own business. He was also his parent’s only child.
“According to eyewitness accounts, the sequence of events leading to the fatal stabbing of Shayan began when Craig Tanber’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Thornburg, noticed a tattoo on Shayan’s forearm, which read ‘love’ in Persian script. Thornburg associated Shayan’s tattoo to the Arabic script often used in ISIS videos and imagery, and called him a “terrorist.” Several witnesses recall Thornburg instigating a confrontation between Tanber and Shayan, and heard her yelling racial insults at him. Witnesses also saw Thornburg spitting in Shayan’s face before he was stabbed to death by Tanber. Yet, Elizabeth Thornburg remains free and has not been charged in connection with the murder of Shayan Mazroei.
“At the time of the murder, 37-year-old Craig Tanber was out on parole stemming from the 2004 killing of Cory Lamons in Huntington Beach. Tanber pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, dissuading a witness by force, street terrorism, and assault with a deadly weapon. The sentence was enhanced after he admitted that the killing was carried out to benefit a street gang. Tanber also has prior convictions for a 2001 residential burglary.
“Shayan’s murder was very likely motivated by Islamophobia and a fundamental misunderstanding of his tattoo. Shayan was clearly targeted and killed because of his race, religion, and national origin. Such senseless acts of hate have no room in the United States of America. We call on Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin to immediately open an investigation into Thornburg’s involvement in Shayan’s murder and bring the appropriate criminal charges against her. In addition, we urge the Department of Justice to further investigate this senseless killing and highly recommend charging both Tanber and Thornburg under federal hate crime statutes.”
About The Author: Prior to working at NIAC, Elham Khatami worked for five years at the most prestigious Capitol Hill news organization -- CQ Roll Call -- most recently as Research Manager. As a reporter for the organization for three years, Elham covered social policy and wrote stories about Iran legislation, human rights, and defense policy. Elham is currently in the final stretch of receiving her MA in Global Communication at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. She graduated Magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh, where she received her BA in political science and writing.
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