An American Kindergarten teacher was stabbed to death in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall on Monday by a woman robed in a traditional Arabic burqa.
Ibolya Ryan, a 47-year old mother of two twin boys, was a kindergarten teacher at Al Oula KG, an Abu Dhabi school about 35 minutes from the downtown area. She was murdered in a bathroom stall of a busy shopping mall on Reem Island in the United Arab Emirates.
The attacker, shown in closed circuit television footage from the mall, reportedly entered the bathroom 90 minutes before the attack and waited in a stall for Ryan. While it's not clear if Ryan was the specific target, the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi warned of an online posting made last month that encouraged attacks against American teachers in the Middle East.
The CCTV footage and photos of the murder weapon and bloody crime scene were released by police, although they're uncertain at this time if the assailant was a man or a woman. The robed figure shown entering the bathroom area and later fleeing after the murder was dressed in a traditional burqa and gloves warn by Arabic women, but police say that the cover-up may have been to hide gender, despite witness reports of the attacker being a woman. They are, however, calling the suspect the "Reem Island Ghost."
Ibolya Ryan was born in Hungary, raised in Romania, and at one time lived in Denver, Colorado with her ex-husband where she worked as a special educational needs teacher and studied teaching for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
In an online teacher recruitment profile, she decribes her appreciation of culture and how she's lived in four different countries in the last 15 years. "I wanted to experience the Arab world and experience their culture and daily life," Ryan wrote in the profile. "I am working in a very traditional neighborhood and it is very unique to learn and understand their culture."
Abu Dhabi police criminal investigator Col. Rashid Mohammad Borshid commented that a fight broke out in the restroom shortly before the stabbing, and witnesses say that they heard one woman tell the other to "sit down or I'll kill you." Another witness says that the victim was stabbed up to six times.
"Community policing is now taking care of the two boys and will provide them with shelter and all necessary support until their father, who stays outside the UAE, arrives," Borshid added.
The U.S. Embassy issued new security warning for foreign teachers in the Middle East following last month's warning and this week's attack advising U.S. citizens to avoid crowded areas and "minimize their profile in public." The alert goes on to give the phone number for the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, as well as the U.S. Consulate General in case of an emergency.
Reem Island is connected to the Abu Dhabi downtown area by a bridge and was created after the main city became too overpopulated. The island is home to tens of thousands of American expatriots, with the Boutik Mall, where Ryan was murdered, seen as the hub of the island.
"I would say be positive, open minded, flexible and take every challenge as a learning experience," Ryan's words echo on her Footprints Recruiting profile as a sad reminder of her commitment to the Abu Dhabi region and people. "Also be thankful that you are able to have the experience of working abroad; I think at the end it makes you not just learn about others but also about yourself."