Approximately 50 Idaho State University students from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have been victims of off-campus home burglaries, and there have been unverified incidents of physical abuse and harm targeted at the students, according to a school-wide email sent this week.
The incidents stretch back to at least last summer, when 17 vehicles, including some belonging to international students, were vandalized.
The New York Times also reports that more recently, DVDs containing hate messages have recently been left on a number of car windshields on campus.
The FBI, in addition to local law enforcement, is now investigating to see if hate crimes were committed, the Times says.
The incidents come as the University has tried to boost enrollment by targeting Middle Eastern students, who now represent about 10% of the student body, according to the Times.
“It’s very scary,” Nezar Alnejidi, a Saudi student, told the paper.
The incidents have now become the main subject of discussion in the bucolic town of Pocatello. Mayor Brian Blad told the Idaho State Journal that he had already spoken with a Saudi official to keep students from leaving, and would meet with both Saudi and Kuwaiti officials Monday. Gulf News reported Wednesday that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have already decided to suspend sending their students to the schools, and quoted the head of the schools' Saudi Students Club that the situation has only worsened, in part thanks to the influence of Donald Trump:
Abdullah Al Dossari…said Idaho supported Trump in his presidential bid and that the candidate used anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric that inflamed people and pushed them towards extremism and bigotry.
The mayor reportedly pledged to find a solution, but nothing has really changed, Al Dossari reportedly said.
“In fact, the situation has become worse and the problems have become more acute,” he said.
The students have been contributing as much as $40 million annually through tuition, Gulf News said.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.