Local tragedy strikes chord nationally

DOLLAR BAY – Unfortunately, the Copper Country is no stranger to domestic violence. However, one local domestic assault case is getting play in news and other publications around the country and the world.

On Dec. 8, Houghton County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Nima Nassiri, 34, and charged him with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder for the alleged assault in their Dollar Bay home on his wife, 27-year-old Sanaz Nezami, who was first taken to Portage Health and later transfered to Marquette General Hospital, where she died Dec. 12 from her injuries.

At the time he was arrested, Nassiri was lodged in Houghton County jail, and his bond was set at $5 million. On Dec. 20, the charge against him was amended to second degree murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. He is still lodged in Houghton County jail.

Besides Upper Peninsula and other Michigan publications, the Nezami story is in such publications as the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, the Daily Mail in England, and many online-only publications.

Bonnie Bucqueroux, an instructor in the School of Journalism at Michigan State University in East Lansing, and the former coordinator of the school’s Victims and the Media program, said she is familiar with the Sanaz Nezami case, and she thinks there are three prominent reasons why it is getting so much play in the media, and those reasons create what she calls the “weirdness” factor.

One possible reason the situation is getting so much play is the fact the area where the alleged assault happened is so remote.

“It’s because it’s happening in the U.P.,” she said. “We think of domestic violence as an urban issue. It isn’t.”

Another possible reason for the spread of the Sanaz Nezami story is culture and religion, Bucqueroux said. Nezami was from Tehran, Iran, and Nassiri is Iranian American from the Los Angeles area. Although Nezami was raised Muslim, she attended a local Christian church. According to Houghton County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kevin Coppo, at Nassiri’s intake into the Houghton County jail, when asked if he had a religion he replied “none.”

Despite that, Bucqueroux said because Nassiri is Iranian American and Nezami was from Iran, stereotyping may have inspired some of the more sensationalist reporting on the situation.

“It appears to be an anti-Muslim bias,” she said.

The technological aspect of the case may be contributing to the spread of the story, also, Bucqueroux said. Her family in Iran were able to watch Nezami die using online video feeds between MGH and Iran. The family also allowed her heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys and intestines to be donated.

Marquette Mining Journal reporter Zach Jay wrote a long article about Nezami’s time at MGH and the nurses who worked with her and the fact her family were able to see her with online video.

Jay said he’s received about 50 e-mails regarding the article, most of them positive.

“I felt lucky to be given it,” he said of the Nezami story.

He’s also pleased her story is getting so much play around the world, particularly because he was impressed with what he learned about Nezami as a person, Jay said.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I’m not surprised it’s gotten so much play.”

Bucqueroux said because the remoteness and technology factors have been written about and can’t be expanded upon, and the fact Nassiri has expressed no religious preference precluding any more anti-Muslim rhetoric, the situation may not get much more play in the media.

“It may be the end of the story,” she said.