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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Ibolya Ryan is the real story, not social media chatter

We must not let the evil actions of one person taint the many deeds of kindness and love that unite the people of this country, writes Khalid Al Ameri.
CCTV footage from Boutik Mall on Reem Island shows the stabbing suspect. Courtesy Security Media
CCTV footage from Boutik Mall on Reem Island shows the stabbing suspect. Courtesy Security Media

For some, it was a day the UAE stood still. No one could make sense of teacher Ibolya Ryan’s murder in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall on Reem Island. Why Ibolya Ryan? Why this innocent life?

We are starting to get some answers from the authorities, but the process of closure for family, friends and the community is hard. This was one of the UAE’s most shocking crimes and everything that surrounds it – the sheer violence of the assault, the planted nail bombs and the suspect’s eventual arrest – is a lot to take in. Especially for a country that has remained a beacon of safety and stability regionally and in the world.

In the aftermath of any tragedy, what remains important is how we all move forward. If we are to learn from this and grow stronger as a community, we must first and foremost focus on the victim. This is not about what the accused did or didn’t wear when she committed the crime. This is about the victim, a caring teacher and a loving mother, who was brutally murdered for what seems like nothing more than her race.

We live in an age when social media allows for a certain narrative to take precedence over what is actually important – the death of a member of our community.

But we should not be distracted by the social media chatter and need to focus on understanding the motive behind the crime.

Second, we must focus on the incredible work by Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, our Minister of Interior, and the police force in apprehending the suspect. It took the authorities 24 hours to identify her and 48 hours to arrest her in her home.

That is even more remarkable when you remember that the suspect was covered from head to toe, wore gloves and had obscured the licence plate of her car with a flag. It shows the authorities’ dedication, at the highest level, to the safety of all who live here. It also shows that anyone who does, or intends to do, harm to the community will be brought to justice. It shows that here in the UAE, it is never a matter of if, only a matter of when. The authorities’ care for the murdered woman’s family and the handling of issues to do with her children and ex-husband is a point of pride for all of us, as a community.

Now, it is especially critical to gain a better understanding of what drove the suspect. What would push someone to commit such an evil act?

Only by getting to the root of that can we start to remedy the problem and ensure we are one step ahead of anyone with similar opinions and intentions.

Finally, and this may be the most important point to make, we need to come together as a community to support the Ryan family, Emirati citizens and UAE residents affected directly or indirectly by this tragedy. We are a country that welcomes, respects and takes care of all who call the UAE home. That is who we are and that is what we stand for.

So, check in on your neighbours to ask how they are doing, hold discussions at your schools and offices for children and adults who want to talk about what has happened. Perhaps the authorities could open their doors to anyone who has concerns and wants further reassurance.

Every little step will tighten our community’s bonds and in times like these, we need to be closer than ever.

We must not let the evil actions of one person taint the many deeds of kindness and love that unite the people of this country.

Ibolya Ryan represented something pure in this world, someone who lived to make the lives of others better.

She shared her knowledge and energy with her students every day. She was someone people loved as a teacher and a mother. She will be remembered for that and this is the real story that must be told and retold.

I pray for strength and patience for the Ryan family at this terrible time, as well as her students, friends and colleagues. For those looking to offer support, her recruitment company has started the Ibolya Ryan Kids Education Fund.

Khalid Al Ameri is an Emirati social commentator

Twitter: @KhalidAlAmeri