November 21, 2018

A Case of A Silent, Deadly #MeToo in New York

Among the many tragedies of the past couple of weeks, on Oct. 24 the bodies of two young Saudi Arabian sisters were found near the Hudson River, bound together with duct tape. They had been seen that morning in nearby Riverside Park, praying.

Police are still investigating but suspect the sisters’ deaths were a double suicide. Rotana Farea, 22, and Tala Farea, 16, had moved to Fairfax, Va., with their family in 2015. Rotana was enrolled at George Mason University. They ran away last December and entered a domestic violence shelter after reportedly telling authorities that they were being physically abused at home. They then left the shelter without notice in August. 

The sisters had applied for political asylum, and seemingly because of that, their mother received a call from the Saudi consulate ordering the family to return to Saudi Arabia, according to news reports. Officials at the consulate denied the allegations and told reporters that they had hired an attorney to “follow the case closely.”

Two days later, the girls were found dead. According to the police, the girls said they would rather die than return to Saudi Arabia, where they would most likely be forced into arranged marriages.

The day the news broke, my Yemenite neighbor, Waseif Qahatan, came to my apartment in tears. “I could have saved them,” she said. 

Qahatan was a child bride at the age of 14. She had been sold to the highest bidder, her cousin. Though born and raised in the Bronx, that summer she went back to Yemen to wed. Her father received $80,000 in return.

“I believed it was a ‘regular marriage,’ but the truth was, it was indentured slavery,” said Qahatan, now 32. “I was not a wife but a slave to my husband, a slave to medieval rules, a slave to my family’s wishes.”

“When I could no longer handle the pressures, I reached out to local authorities. I was told nothing could be done because I was a minor. So, I was old enough to be married but not old enough to have a say about my body or my life.”

After having her first child at 18, Qahatan was finally granted a divorce at age 20. She was back in the U.S., but a year later was stuck in a second arranged marriage. After her second child, she ran away with her children to a domestic violence shelter. “Although I was very much alone, I finally felt free,” she said.

It is another, silent, deadly #MeToo. Physical abuse, rape, stoning, honor killing — all continue to be standard practice in religious Muslim communities around the world. But because cultural relativism is a big part of leftist ideology, many feminists remain silent on the issue. Linda Sarsour, leader of the “Women’s March,” has so far had zero to say on the Saudi suicides. 

The New York Times ran a story about the tragedy that happened just miles from its offices —and then nothing. No editorials, no op-eds, nada. President Trump couldn’t be blamed for it, so why bother?

Earlier this year, Qahatan started a nonprofit called After the Veil that is geared to help young girls needing to escape abusive families or forced marriages. She posted her mission on the organization’s website at AfterTheVeil.com: “Give a voice to Arab American women in order to empower them. Provide these women with a safe haven and the resources necessary to reach their full potential.”  Further on the website, Qahatan says the location of her organization’s safe house is kept secret to protect the women staying there. 

“Arabic girls all over the world feel they have no options,” Qahatan told me. “The conditioning of Arabic culture is that of suppression and silencing the voices of those who need to be heard the most.”

She remains upset that her nonprofit wasn’t further along to help the Saudi girls, but their deaths have given her renewed focus.

“These girls had made a decision, so they were not praying for themselves but praying for girls like them to one day have a chance, to live a life of freedom,” she said. “I have fought all my life and will continue to fight against the idea that females cannot have power. To girls in this situation, I say hold on. Help is coming.”


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

Episode 82 – Crashing on the Hudson

Photo by Greg L.

It was a cold January afternoon in New York City when Adir Freilich boarded US Airways flight 1549 to Charlotte, North Carolina. He was on his way to Myrtle Beach to visit his grandparents. But Adir wasn’t destined to end up in Myrtle Beach that day. No, Adir ended up in the Hudson River.

The aircraft was in command of Captain Chesley (“Sully”) Sullenberg , a 57 year old former fighter pilot who had over 25 years of experience as an airline pilot. About 2 minutes after takeoff, flight 1549 struck a flock of Canada Geese. All engine power was lost. The events that followed are truly stranger than fiction.

Adir Freilich joins us today to share with us his first hand account of the Miracle on the Hudson.

This episode is brought to you by the new documentary Roadmap Jerusalem

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Body of NY Charedi mom missing for four months found in Hudson River

View of the Bear Mountain Bridge over Popolopen Creek feeding into the Hudson River. Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

The body of a Charedi Orthodox mother from New York’s Rockland County who had been reported missing in April was discovered in the Hudson River upstate.

The body was discovered Wednesday near Bear Mountain Bridge and positively identified the following day as that of Malky Lebowitz, nee Einhorn, the news site Crownheights Info reported. Lebowitz, 21, was married and the mother of a baby girl.

Formerly a member of the Satmar community, she lived in New City after moving from the neighboring town of Monsey, which has a large Charedi population.

On April 27, police began searching near the area where the body was found after seeing footage from a closed circuit television camera showing a woman jumping into the Hudson River from the bridge.

Yossi Morgeretan, coordinator of the Chaverim of Rockland, a volunteer emergency services organization, recovered the body, according to Crownheights Info. The report did not indicate the cause of death.

The family and close friends have been notified.

Following the woman’s disappearance, rescue units from numerous departments and agencies searched for nearly a week without any results, Kieran O’Leary, a spokesman for the Westchester County police, told the media at the time.

Crownheights Info published a photograph of a smiling Lebowitz wearing a head cover favored by many Charedi women while embracing a laughing baby and a rubber ball at what appears to be a play corner for children.