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Mail brings slur, threat to citizen born in Iran

A couple married for 10 1/2 years had never encountered nasty comments until the postcard arrived.

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 23, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Checking the mail will never be the same for Saeid and Melissa Ajabshir.

A week after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, they received a postcard addressed to "Sand N---."

"Our white Christian God will wipe your kind from the face of the Earth," the typed message said.

Ajabshir, 34, was born in Iran but is an American citizen. His wife is American too.

Frightened, the couple drove to the St. Petersburg Police Department with the unsigned postcard. The incident is being investigated.

The Ajabshirs and their sons, 4 and 5, packed their suitcases under the watch of Officer D.L. Miller. They have not slept at home since Wednesday, and they're considering selling their house along 40th Avenue NE.

"I love this neighborhood; I love this house," said Ajabshir, a product manager at Tech Data. "But I feel like I'm not attached anymore."

It was the second anti-Islamic incident in St. Petersburg since the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. A day after the assault, a St. Petersburg man of Palestinian heritage found splattered paint and a threatening note on his brand-new GMC truck.

St. Petersburg detectives are working with the U.S. Postal Service to see if there is a pattern of hate mail. "We're looking into it, and if there's possible charges and suspects, we'll definitely investigate it to the fullest," said Lt. Eric Wells of the Intelligence Unit.

Saeid and Melissa Ajabshir met at a party when they worked for Tony Roma's restaurants in Miami. The students at Miami-Dade Community College dated for two months and then eloped.

"We just fell in love and went off and got married," Melissa Ajabshir said.

They moved to Tallahassee, where they graduated from Florida State University. Their next stop was St. Petersburg, where they've lived for 51/2 years.

A year ago, they sold their house in Feather Sound and moved to 40th Avenue NE.

In their 101/2 years of marriage, the couple never encountered nasty comments.

But Wednesday, everything changed after the mail arrived.

Melissa reached into the mailbox at 4 p.m. and pulled out a postcard.

"It said 'Sand N---,' and it was like time stood still for a minute," she said. "I flipped the card over and read it and became hysterical."

The postcard told them to go away or they would be killed.

"You have been warned!!" it said.

Sobbing, she called her husband at Tech Data and told him about the postcard. Then she started calling family members to tell them she loved them.

"I called my brother and said if something happened to the two of us, I wanted him to take our kids," she said.

When Saeid came home, they drove to the police station. They did not know if the postcard was an empty threat. Having children, they didn't take a chance.

Anger is no excuse to lash out at innocent people, they said.

"They're targeting us because of their anger when we have the same anger they do," Melissa Ajabshir said.

Their boys are afraid.

"At the age they are, they have no clue people don't like people based on the group they belong to," she said. "Now I feel that's tainted because somebody doesn't like what their dad looks like."

The family is staying with relatives in the St. Petersburg area. They have not decided whether they will go back to the house they tiled and painted after moving last year.

"We're very spooked right now," Melissa Ajabshir said. "Do we want to stay and stand up for ourselves, or do we want to leave if this is who our neighbors are?"

-- Anyone with information is asked to call St. Petersburg police at (727) 893-7925.

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