She was a sweet, pretty California girl with Palestinian roots who left an arranged marriage only to find love with a man who committed the worst mass shooting in modern US history.
Little by little, details have begun to emerge about 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salman, who grew up in the small suburb of Rodeo, California, tucked in the dry hills near the oil refineries 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.
Her romance with Omar Mateen — security guard, bodybuilder and devout Muslim — began online, according to a neighbor, and they were married on September 29, 2011, near her hometown, according to public records. The couple has a 3-year-old son.
According to marriage documents on file in the Contra Costa County Recorder’s office, Salman was born in the United States while her parents’ birthplaces were listed as “Palestine.”
It’s unclear when her parents, who served as witnesses for the wedding, came to the United States, but their naturalization papers allowing them to stay in the country were approved in 1984.
Jasbinder Chahal, who has lived across the street from Salman’s childhood home for the last 15 years, said Salman is “very nice…not the smartest, but she was beautiful.
“Noor never played in the street, and the girls were never allowed to drive,” Chahal said.
The neighbor quoted Salman’s mother as saying Mateen also kept her daughter from driving, until he recently allowed her to take a test to get her driver’s license. Salman’s marriage to Mateen was her second, said Chahal. Mateen had previously been married as well.
Her first marriage had been arranged in the land claimed by Palestinians as their own, said Chahal, adding that the union did not work out.
“He was in Chicago and they were living there, but they were not married long,” Chahal said. “They had cultural differences since she grew up here and was American.”
On one of her sister’s Facebook pages — next to a family photo — there is a box with the words: “Solidarity with Gaza.”
Salman rarely came home to visit after she married because Mateen would not let her, Chahal said. She quoted Salman’s mother telling her that Mateen even tried to keep the daughter from traveling home to see her father when he was sick.
The younger Salman managed to scrape together the money to visit before her father died in a local hospital, Chahal said.