'Missing' Saudi woman found to have eloped

NAZIF KARAMAN
ISTANBUL
Published 29.08.2019 00:06

A woman at the center of a defamation campaign by Saudi media over her disappearance in Turkey was found alive and well. A meticulous investigation by Turkish security forces revealed that the woman, identified as Abeer Ibrahim B. Alanazi, actually left her husband to be with her Syrian lover who lives in Turkey.

Alanazi, a mother of three, was on vacation in Istanbul with her husband Abdullah Muflih Alanazi when she went missing on Aug. 15. Her husband told police that his wife told him that she would go shopping. Soon, pro-Saudi social media accounts were awash with claims that she was kidnapped while Saudi media outlets questioned what they called police's "failure" to locate her. An article in the Saudi Gazette even pointed to a warning by the Saudi Embassy against crimes targeting Saudi nationals and a decline in the number of Saudi tourists visiting Turkey due to "crimes." Women's children went on social media urging Saudi authorities to help them and claimed Turkey did not help them. The Turkish edition of the pro-Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat even claimed that the woman was abducted by an assailant who rendered her unconscious by "spraying something" on Alanazi's face while she was out shopping.

The Istanbul governorate put an end to allegations and released a statement saying that the woman reported missing "left the hotel she was staying with her family on her own, without being forced to and on foot" and she was "located" by police who informed her about the disappearance report. The governorate said the woman testified to police in the company of a Saudi consulate official that she left her family on her own and did not file a complaint against anyone.

Turkish police combed security cameras around the hotel and in places she might go and detected that Alanazi met a man near the hotel after leaving her family. Security camera footage showed they walked to Sultanahmet Square together and took a taxicab from there to the city's main bus station. A separate investigation found out that the woman had calls to and from a phone number registered in Istanbul. A person who was in contact with Alanazi was questioned by police and through this person's testimony, police found out that the woman traveled to Bursa, a city south of Istanbul. The questioned suspect gave the police an address where Alanazi might be in Bursa. Police found the woman there and discovered she eloped with a 27-year-old Syrian man whose identity was not disclosed and was hiding from her family.

Saudi media outlets and social media accounts of people close to that country's ruling family unleashed a propaganda war against Turkey following the Jamal Khashoggi case. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist living in the United States, disappeared at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year. Riyadh had denied the accusations that Khashoggi, a prominent dissident, was killed at the consulate at first, though it later put those accused of the murder on trial. Since the Khashoggi's disappearance that was followed by Turkey's thorough investigation pointing fingers to Saudi officials involved in the plot, a defamation campaign against Turkey was started in Saudi Arabia. It involves everything from "travel warnings" for Turkey with claims that tourists were kidnapped and "sold" to Daesh militants to news articles portraying Turkey as a dictatorship.

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