Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan And The 'Honor Killings' Of Two Young People In Texas

In 2012, American Coty Beavers and Iranian women's rights activist Gelareh Bagherzadeh were shot and killed in the Houston, Texas area, as NBC News reports. Connecting the two crimes was Jordanian-U.S. immigrant Nesreen Irsan. Irsan, a former Muslim, just recently married Beavers, a Christian. Bagherzadeh, Irsan's friend, had reportedly encouraged her to reject the conservative Muslim upbringing of her family, convert to Christianity, and marry Beavers. According to the two men charged and later convicted for both murders, Beavers and Bagherzade's deaths were honor killings.

Honor killings, or murder committed to restore a family's honor, are stereotyped to be a widespread practice in the Arab world, but that's not the case, via the Government of Canada. Forbidden by Sharia law, honor killing is still a significant problem in — though not strictly limited to — some Islamic cultures. Most often, they are perpetrated against women and girls who have transgressed ultra-conservative Islamic teachings, per the Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network. Best understood as a regional or cultural issue rather than a core tenant of the Muslim faith, honor killings are rampant in Jordan, the country where the Irsan family originated before emigrating to the United States, via Los Angeles Times reporting.

Nesreen Irsan's father and brother were convicted for the killings

Though Coty Beavers and Gelareh Bagherzadeh were murdered, Nesreen Irsan's life was spared — but just barely. Reportedly accompanied by his father, Ali Mahwood-Awad (pictured), and mother, Alrawabdeh, Nesreen's brother, Nasim shot and killed Bagherzadeh in her car outside her family home. Some months later, Beavers was shot and killed inside the apartment he shared with Nesreen. Her father, Ali Mahwood-Awad, reportedly pulled the trigger. In a plea agreement, Alrawabdeh testified against her husband and son, as NBC News writes. According to Alrawabdeh, Ali Mahwood-Awad also intended to kill his daughter.

At her father's trial, Nesreen outlined in her testimony the fear and abused the Irsan family endured from Ali Mahwood-Awad, an ultra-conservative Muslim. According to the Associated Press (AP), Nesreen said in her testimony, her father told her, "If you have boyfriends, I'm going to kill you ... I'm going to put a bullet between your eyes and his eyes." She was also forced to wear the traditional Muslim head-covering for women called a hijab and forbidden from spending time alone with men outside her family. The murders of Beavers and Bagherzadeh were not the first time that the Irsan patriarch wielded violence  to terrify and oppress his family, the AP writes.

Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan was sentenced to die

As NBC News explains, after a five-week trial and some 30 minutes of deliberation, a jury convicted Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan, Nesreen's father, for the role that he played in the murders of Coty Beavers and Gelareh Bagherzadeh. Two weeks later, that same jury came with a sentence: Ali Mahwood-Awad would die for those crimes. In 2015, Ali Mahwood-Awad spent time in prison for Social Security fraud. Per the Houston Chronicle, during his trial, a neighbor testified of another possible Ali Mahwood-Awad murder dating to 1999. Ali Mahwood-Awad later said that the shooting was in self-defense.

As for Nasim Irsan (pictured), Nesreen's brother, who pleaded guilty to the shooting death of Bagherzadeh, he received a 40-year sentence for the crime, based on 2019 AP reporting. Alrawabdeh, Nesreen's mother, who, in a plea deal, testified against her husband and son, was convicted on a lesser charge of kidnapping and released on probation, per the Houston Chronicle. Nesreen's sister, Nadia, was later charged with conspiracy to commit murder. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison, as the Houston Chronicle elsewhere notes. Nadia was later sentenced to 10 years probation on organized crime charges. Speaking later, another Irsan sister, Nesemah, said, referring to her father (via Houston Chronicle), "The world is a safer place knowing that a man who was capable of anything and everything will no longer hurt anyone else."