Victim of hate crime will give $10,000 donation to other refugees
If they ever meet, Hasel Afshar knows exactly what he would do to the person who ransacked his home.
He would hug them.
"If someone makes a mistake, you have to give them a chance. Maybe he's just angry about something, maybe he's lost," Afshar said Friday, March 31, in an interview. "I hope he finds his way. I don't have problems with anybody."
So even if police catch the person or persons responsible, Afshar doesn't want to press charges.
"I don't know how to explain it to you," he said. "Press(ing) charges against him would make him more angry and more hateful. I just show him love."
"This is my life, and I have the right to forgive," he continued.
The Iranian-born immigrant returned to his Troutdale home on Tuesday, March 28, to find the walls smeared with racist insults, calling the 33-year-old a "Muslim" "terrorist" who should "get out of America."
The bitter irony, of course, is that Afshar isn't Muslim, but Baha'i. Back in Iran, family members who share his faith have experienced discrimination from people who dislike the religious minority.
"This has happened to our family a few times, and we alway forgive people," Afshar noted. "It comes from people who just hate you because you're not Muslim, or you're not from there."
In less than 24 hours, more than $10,000 has been donated to a GoFundMe account set up in Afshar's name. Afshar has decided not to keep the money.
Instead, he said he'll use the funds to help other Iranian refugees relocate to the United States or other safe countries.
"We read (about) these things, and we feel helpless. We just retract and go along in our daily life, and we just carry the sadness," said Troutdale resident Christine Azar-Kapur, who is helping organize the donations. "This shows that good is everywhere and good will ultimately win."
Clean-up at his home wrapped Thursday, thanks to the help of a few neighbors and coworkers. The Home Depot donated $200 in paint and graffiti remover.
For now, Afshar is staying in Seattle, where two of his brothers live. He doesn't know if he'll really leave the U.S., but he said he's finished with the Troutdale neighborhood.
"This is not up to me alone, I have a big family," he explained. "We have to sit and talk about (it) and make the decision. I was really scared at that time, and I didn't know what to think."
On Wednesday, March 30, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office sent out a terse press release announcing the investigation of a "bias crime," the legal terminology used here to describe hate crimes.
Reporters and television news crews swarmed the modest, two-story home on Southeast 26th Court in the Sandee Palisades subdivision. They surprised Afshar, who had not alerted the media or requested publicity.
A tour of his home showed the drawers in his bedroom had been dumped on the floor. Spray-painted Xs were scrawled on mirrors and the display of his flatscreen TV. Several cars parked in his backyard, which he had planned to refurbish, were also marred with paint.
The home invaders left a note on Afshar's coffee table, weighed down with seven .45 caliber bullets formed in the shape of a cross.
'"If I see you here next month, I will shoot you and burn your house,'" the note read, according to Afshar.
Afshar has lived in the U.S. since 2010. He works as a machine cutter operator in Portland, sometimes working as much as 120 hours in two weeks.
In a statement, Troutdale Mayor Casey Ryan strongly condemned the death threat and home invasion that occurred in his city.
"No one should have to experience the fear of being targeted or attacked based on their identity or for practicing their religion," Mayor Ryan said. "I regret that this violence has penetrated our community, and it underscores the importance of working toward establishing more connections and compassion in our communities."
Lt. Chad Gaidos, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said the law enforcement agency has "no significant update," but highlighted a $1,000 reward posted by Crime Stoppers of Oregon. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the county sheriff at 503-988-0560.
Read a previous story on Hasel Afshar here.