Dubai, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Another Saudi woman has turned to social media for protection from her father, just days after Canada granted refuge to Rahaf al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi who fled her family.
Identified only as Nojoud al-Mandeel on Twitter, her case differs from that of al-Qunun. She has not fled the kingdom, has not revealed her face and has only made her pleas for help on Twitter in Arabic.
While their circumstances are different, the claims of abuse by the two women mirror those of other female Saudi runaways who have used social media to publicize their escapes.
There has been speculation that al-Qunun's successful getaway will inspire others to copy her. However, powerful deterrents remain in place. If caught, runaways face possible death at the hands of relatives for purportedly shaming the family.
Saudi women fleeing their families challenge a system that grants men guardianship over women's lives. This guardianship system starts in the home, where women must obey fathers, husbands and brothers. Outside the home, it is applied to citizens, often referred to as sons and daughters by Saudi rulers who demand obedience.
Hala Aldosari, a Saudi scholar and activist, said the male guardianship system replicates the ruling family's model of governance, which demands full obedience to the king, who holds absolute power in decision-making.
"This is why the state is keen to maintain the authority of male citizens over women to ensure their allegiance," she said, adding that this "hierarchical system of domination" necessitates "keeping women in line."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who's introduced social reforms loosening restrictions on women, told The Atlantic that doing away with guardianship laws has to be done in a way that does not harm families and the culture. He said abolishing these laws would create problems for families that don't want to give freedom to their daughters.
The issue of guardianship is extremely sensitive in the kingdom, where conservative families view what they consider the protection of women as a man's duty.
More than a dozen women's rights activists have been detained, many since May, after they campaigned against the guardianship system. Some had also wanted to create alternative shelters for women runaways.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry. In the past, a travel permit was a paper document issued by the Interior Ministry and signed by a male relative.
Today, Saudi men download a government mobile app that notifies them of a woman's travel. Through the app, men can grant or deny a woman permission to travel. Some young women who have fled the country had managed to access their father's phone, change the setting and disable its notifications.
In a statement read to reporters in Canada on Tuesday, al-Qunun said she wants to be independent, travel and make her own decisions.
"I am one of the lucky ones," she said. "I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not change their reality."
That's especially true for women from conservative tribal families, like al-Qunun's.
Al-Qunun, one of 10 children, posted online that her father, Mohammed Mutliq al-Qunun, is the governor of the city of al-Sulaimi in the hilly hinterland of Ha'il — a province where nearly all women cover their face in black veils and wear loose black robes, or abayas, in public. The family belongs to the influential Shammar tribe, which extends to Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Her father has considerable clout as a prominent town official and member of a powerful tribe.
Al-Qunun, who barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand last week to avoid deportation, said she was abused by a brother and locked in her room for months for cutting her hair short. She said she would have been killed if sent back to her family.
According to government statistics, at least 577 Saudi women tried to flee their homes inside the country in 2015, though the actual number is likely higher. There are no statistics on attempted or successful escapes abroad.
Shahad al-Mohaimeed, 19, who fled abuse and an ultraconservative family in Saudi Arabia two years ago, said fear is a powerful deterrent.
"When a Saudi girl decides to flee, it means she's decided to put her life on the line and take a very, very risky step," said al-Mohaimeed, who now lives in Sweden.
Al-Qunun's plight on social media drew international attention, helping her short-circuit the typically complex path to asylum. A little more than a week after fleeing Saudi Arabia, she was in Canada, building a new life, posting pictures of wine, bacon and donning a dress above the knees.
Back in Saudi Arabia, the woman identified as Nojoud al-Mandeel posted audio on Twitter on Monday alleging her father had beaten and burnt her "over something trivial". She posted a video looking onto a neighbor's gated pool, where she says she jumped from her bedroom window before a friend picked her up and they escaped.
"Don't tell me to report to police," she said, explaining that in a previous attempt, police just had her father sign a pledge saying he would not beat her again.
After her story gained some traction online, she was promised attention by a protection hotline in Saudi Arabia for domestic abuse victims. Prosecutors also reportedly began looking into her allegations of abuse, according to Saudi news sites.
She was placed in a domestic abuse shelter, but on Tuesday complained on Twitter about the shelter's restrictions over her movements.
Al-Mohaimeed said Twitter is where Saudi women can share stories and be heard. She and two other Saudi women took over al-Qunun's Twitter account, writing messages on her behalf during the height of her pleas last week to avoid deportation.
"I was not born in this world to serve a man," al-Mohaimeed said. "I was born in this world to fulfill my dreams, achieve my dreams, grow, learn and be independent — to taste life as I hold it in my hands."
Thousand Oaks, Nov 8 (AP/UNB) — A gunman opened fire Wednesday inside a country dance bar crowded with hundreds of people on "college night," wounding 11 people including a deputy who rushed to the scene, police said.
"Multiple injuries reported" - Firefighters and first responders are arriving at the scene of a reported mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, Ventura County.— Sky News (@SkyNews) November 8, 2018
Follow the latest updates on the story here: https://t.co/9Pc8K5AUeD pic.twitter.com/cNBc9WE1wL
Ventura County sheriff's Capt. Garo Kuredjian said he could not confirm whether any of those shot were dead. Kuredjian said he could not confirm that the shooter was killed or in custody, but said there was no further threat to the community.
Kuredjian said hundreds of people were inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at 11:20 p.m., and shots were still being fired when deputies arrived.
Tayler Whitler, 19, said she was inside the bar when a gunman walked in with his face partly covered by something resembling a ski mask, opened fire on a person working the door, then began to shoot people at random.
"It was really, really really shocking," Whitler told KABC-TV as she stood with her father in the Borderline parking lot. "It looked like he knew what he was doing."
It was college night and country two-step lessons were being offered Wednesday at the Borderline, according to its website.
It has been "quite some time" since there was a shooting of any kind in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Los Angeles, just across the county line.
Nick Steinwender, student body president at nearby California Lutheran University, rushed to the scene when he heard about a shooting at the bar where he knew friends and fellow students were inside.
"It was chaos, people jumping out of windows, people hopping over gates to get out" Steinwender told KABC.
He said he heard from people inside that they were hiding in bathrooms and the attic of the bar.
Washington, Nov 7 (AP/UNB) — Democrats seized the House majority from President Donald Trump's Republican Party on Tuesday in a suburban revolt that threatened what's left of the president's governing agenda. But the GOP gained ground in the Senate and preserved key governorships, beating back a "blue wave" that never fully materialized.
The mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Trump's young presidency underscored the limits of his hardline immigration rhetoric in America's evolving political landscape, where college-educated voters in the nation's suburbs rejected his warnings of a migrant "invasion."
Blue-collar voters and rural America embraced his aggressive talk and stances. The new Democratic House majority will end the Republican Party's dominance in Washington for the final two years of Trump's first term with major questions looming about health care, immigration and government spending.
But the Democrats' edge in the House is narrow. With 218 seats needed for a majority, Democrats have won 219 and the Republicans 193, with winners undetermined in 23 races.
Trump was expected to address the results at a post-election news conference scheduled for midday Wednesday.
The president's party will maintain control of the executive and judicial branches of the government, in addition to the Senate, but Democrats suddenly have a foothold that gives them subpoena power to probe deep into Trump's personal and professional missteps — and his long-withheld tax returns.
"Tomorrow will be a new day in America," declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would be in line to become the next House speaker.
It could have been a much bigger night for Democrats, who suffered stinging losses in Ohio and in Florida, where Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis ended Democrat Andrew Gillum's bid to become the state's first African-American governor.
The 2018 elections also exposed an extraordinary political realignment in an electorate defined by race, gender, and education that could shape U.S. politics for years to come.
The GOP's successes were fueled by a coalition that's decidedly older, whiter, more male and less likely to have college degrees. Democrats relied more upon women, people of color, young people and college graduates.
Record diversity on the ballot may have helped drive turnout.
Women won at least 85 seats in the House, a record. The House was also getting its first two Muslim women, Massachusetts elected its first black congresswoman, and Tennessee got its first female senator.
Three candidates had hoped to become their states' first African-American governors, although just one — Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams — was still in the running.
Overall, women voted considerably more in favor of congressional Democratic candidates — with fewer than 4 in 10 voting for Republicans, according to VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 115,000 voters and about 20,000 nonvoters — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
In suburban areas where key House races were decided, female voters skewed significantly toward Democrats by a nearly 10-point margin.
Democrats celebrated a handful of victories in their "blue wall" Midwestern states, electing or re-electing governors in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker was defeated by state education chief Tony Evers.
The road to a House majority ran through two dozen suburban districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Democrats flipped seats in suburban districts outside of Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago and Denver. Democrats also reclaimed a handful of blue-collar districts carried by both former President Barack Obama and Trump.
The results were more mixed deeper into Trump country.
In Kansas, Democrat Sharice Davids beat a GOP incumbent to become the first gay Native American woman elected to the House. But in Kentucky, one of the top Democratic recruits, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, lost her bid to oust to three-term Rep. Andy Barr.
Trump sought to take credit for retaining the GOP's Senate majority, even as the party's foothold in the House was slipping.
"Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!" Trump tweeted.
History was working against the president in both the House and the Senate: The president's party has traditionally suffered deep losses in his first midterm election, and 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.
Democrats' dreams of the Senate majority, always unlikely, were shattered after losses in top Senate battlegrounds: Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas.
Some hurt worse than others.
In Texas, Sen Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke, whose record-smashing fundraising and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender.
Trump encouraged voters to view the 2018 midterms as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at his recent rallies.
Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, the national survey of the electorate, while one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump.
Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good. Twenty-five percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in the election.
Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote.
The president bet big on a xenophobic closing message, warning of an immigrant "invasion" that promised to spread violent crime and drugs across the nation. Several television networks, including the president's favorite Fox News Channel, yanked a Trump campaign advertisement off the air on the eve of the election, determining that its portrayal of a murderous immigrant went too far.
One of Trump's most vocal defenders on immigration, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, lost his bid for governor.
Kobach had built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigration policies and strict voter photo ID laws. He served as vice chairman of Trump's now-defunct commission on voter fraud.
The president found partial success despite his current job approval, set at 40 percent by Gallup, the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era. Both Barack Obama's and Bill Clinton's numbers were 5 points higher, and both suffered major midterm losses of 63 and 54 House seats respectively.
Meanwhile, the close of the 2018 midterm season marked the unofficial opening of the next presidential contest.
Several ambitious Democrats easily won re-election, including presidential prospects Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. A handful of others played outsized roles in their parties' midterm campaigns, though not as candidates, and were reluctant to telegraph their 2020 intentions before the 2018 fight was decided. They included New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Said Warren: "This resistance began with women and it is being led by women tonight."
Tallahassee, Nov 3 (AP/UNB) — A gunman killed two people and wounded five others at a yoga studio in Florida's capital before killing himself Friday evening, officials said.
Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo told reporters Friday night that the man shot six people and pistol-whipped another after walking into the studio, which is part of a small Tallahassee shopping center.
The suspect then fatally shot himself, DeLeo said. Authorities have not identified the shooter or the victims. The conditions of the other victims are unclear.
DeLeo said police are asking for anyone who saw something unusual around the time of the shooting to contact police. He said the shooter acted alone and authorities are investigating possible motives. He declined to say what kind of gun the shooter had.
"We're all very saddened and shocked by the events that occurred, but it's important that people understand that there is no immediate threat outside of what has already occurred this evening," DeLeo said.
Melissa Hutchinson said she helped treat a "profusely" bleeding man who rushed into a bar after the incident. She said three people from the studio ran in, and they were told there was an active shooter.
"It was a shocking moment something happened like this," Hutchinson said.
The people who came in were injured, including the bleeding man who was pistol-whipped while trying to stop the shooter. They told her the shooter kept coming in and out of the studio. When he loaded his gun, people started pounding the windows of the studio to warn people.
City Commissioner Scott Maddox was on the scene. He said on Facebook, "In my public service career I have had to be on some bad scenes. This is the worst. Please pray."
Elle Welling said she was leaving a liquor store across the street from the shopping center and saw at least three people loaded into ambulances.
"You don't think about this in Tallahassee and now you have to," said Welling, 26, who lives in the neighborhood.
The plaza is home to popular restaurants, a jewelry store, a framing shop, a hair salon and other businesses.
Erskin Wesson, 64, said he was eating dinner with his family at a restaurant located below the yoga studio when they heard the gunshots above them.
"We just heard 'pow, pow, pow, pow,'" Wesson said. "It sounded like a limb falling on a tin roof and rolling."
The restaurant's owner came by a short time later, asking if anyone was a doctor, Wesson said. His step-daughter is an emergency room nurse and helped paramedics for about an hour, he said.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, tweeted that he's breaking off the campaign trail to return to Tallahassee. He earlier appeared at a campaign event with former President Barack Obama.
"I'm deeply appreciative of law enforcement's quick response to the shooting at the yoga facility in Tallahassee today. No act of gun violence is acceptable. I'm in close communication with law enforcement officials and will be returning to Tallahassee tonight," Gillum tweeted.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, called DeLeo and the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to get details of the shooting.
"I will remain in constant communication with law enforcement. We have offered state assistance," Scott tweeted.
Tallahassee's crime and murder rate has been an issue in the governor's race, with Gillum's opponent, Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, calling the capital Florida's most crime-ridden city, a claim that is incorrect.
Washington, Nov.3 (AP/UNB) — The State Department said Friday that it will continue to seek a full investigation into the slaying of U.S.-based Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi as it marked International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
Commemorating the day is "particularly important" due to the Khashoggi case, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Nauert noted in a statement the State Department's revocation of visas for some of the Saudi officials implicated in the Oct. 2 killing of the writer, who was living in self-imposed exile in the U.S. while writing columns critical of his government for The Washington Post.
The State Department is exploring additional measures against anyone determined to be responsible for his death inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey, she said, linking the case to incidents in which journalists have been killed in Somalia, Syria and South Sudan or imprisoned as in Iran, Turkey and China.
The statement came the same day President Donald Trump lashed out at what he calls the "fake news media" who criticize him in the U.S.
He told reporters at the White House on Friday that some journalists are "creating violence" through their work.
He said that if the media were to "write accurately and write fairly you would have a lot less violence in the country."