Community center opening to mark anniversary of Muslim students' deaths
Posted February 5, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — A year after three Muslim students were killed in Chapel Hill, several events will mark the anniversary of their deaths.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were fatally shot Feb. 10, 2015, at the couple's condominium in Chapel Hill. A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with murder in their deaths and could face the death penalty if convicted.
The families of the victims have worked over the past year to preserve their legacies, and a project started by Barakat's family in his honor will serve as a base for events to honor their memories.
Relatives have been renovating a house Barakat owned at 202 N. Tarboro St. in Raleigh, converting it into a community center that will be known as "The Light House."
"I thought this project, in the beginning, was going to take two weeks to finish," said Barakat's older brother, Farris Barakat, who is overseeing the project.
Since their deaths, the families have hosted a variety of volunteer efforts in their memories.
"On the families' end, we didn't forget even for a second," Farris Barakat said. "What's very, very, very important is that the response to this tragedy is one that has been positive."
The families also continue to advocate for U.S. Muslims. Barakat's sister met with President Barack Obama this week after his first visit to an American mosque.
"At one point, he thanked Muslim-Americans for their response to what's going," Farris Barakat said. "It felt good to feel appreciated for the things that we do."
Police have said an ongoing dispute between Hicks and his neighbors prompted the shootings last year, but the families believe the deaths were motivated by anti-Islamic sentiment. The FBI is still investigating whether federal hate crime charges should be filed in the case.
Farris Barakat said he hopes the work that's been done since his brother's death will continue to inspire understanding toward Muslim-Americans.
"It's an opportunity for others to reflect and to learn from the examples they left in death and in life," he said.