Family of Saudi sisters found dead in New York denies suicide reports

The two bodies were found by a passer-by just before 3 p.m. last Wednesday on the city’s Upper West Side near Riverside Park. (NYPD/Pexels)
Updated 30 October 2018

Family of Saudi sisters found dead in New York denies suicide reports

  • The sisters were bound together at the feet and waist.
  • A relative told Arab News that Rotana and Tala, who had two brothers, were part of a happy and normal family

JEDDAH: The family of two Saudi sisters found dead on the shore of the Hudson River in New York City has denied media reports that they might have killed themselves. 

The bodies of Rotana, 22, and Tala Farea, 16, were discovered on Oct. 24 near Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They were bound together at the feet and waist.

ABC News and other news outlets reported that the working theory of investigators is that the sisters wanted to take their own lives and so taped themselves together and jumped into the water. The family denies this suggestion, saying that the girls were happy, had no problems at home and were afraid of water.

A relative told Arab News that Rotana and Tala, who had two brothers, were part of a happy and normal family.

“They were a democratic family, they never had any issues and the eldest was sent to college in New York City with her family’s blessing,” said the family member.

Regarding reports that Tala had run away from home, the family said that the sisters were very close and she had found it difficult to cope with Rotana living so far away. As a result, she traveled to New York without her mother’s knowledge. Tala was initially reported missing to the police but the search was called off after it was discovered she was with her sister.

The two young women were described as shy, intelligent and academically gifted. Tala had a full scholarship to one of Jeddah’s leading, prestigious private schools, Dar Al-Fikr.

Arab News contacted the New York Police Department and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in the city, who said that the case remains under investigation and the cause of death is yet to be determined.

Early this month, the body of 23-year-old Saudi national Yasser Abulfaraj was discovered with multiple stab wounds in his apartment. The Miami-Dade police arrested Robert Wayne Gore, a homeless man, and charged him with first degree murder.


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”