Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional context about the chancellor's recognition of Our Three Winner's Day this year.
This past February marked the 6th anniversary of the murders of UNC Dentistry student Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, an incoming dentistry student, and her younger sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, then an undergraduate at North Carolina State University.
But as the clock ticked past midnight, many students found themselves disappointed that the University had once again neglected to publicly honor the memories of these three Chapel Hill community members — Our Three Winners — on the anniversary of the tragedy.
Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz did retweet and comment on a remembrance post from the UNC Muslim Students Association on Feb. 10 this year, which was then retweeted by UNC's main account.
But some students felt that a lone retweet wasn't enough and was emblematic of a broader lack of support and representation from the administration.
Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were proud Muslim Americans, and many feel that the shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, had acted on anti-Muslim hostility when he killed the three students. Although he was not charged with a hate crime — because North Carolina’s hate crime statute only applies to misdemeanors — Hicks pled guilty to three charges of first-degree murder in 2019. However, the victims’ family members and many around the world were sure that given past interactions between Hicks and Barakat, Yusor and Razan, Hicks had acted from a place of hate and prejudice.
Anum Imran, president of the UNC Muslim Students Association and a senior studying statistics and political science, said that for herself and many other minority students, the 2015 murders have had a profound effect.
“It has a resounding impact on minority students in general, the fact that there was a very direct execution-style hate crime in the town of Chapel Hill,” Imran said. “The fact that three Muslims were killed in Chapel Hill — before deciding to go to this university it's something that I thought about. It's something that my peers and friends have thought about. That trauma extends beyond the Muslim community, and it also follows every Muslim who joins the community and Chapel Hill.”
The shock waves sent out by the murders both across the world and through time made it all the more disappointing that the University has not publicly acknowledged the shootings on Our Three Winners Day in recent years, Imran said.