Spurned admirer stalked Dubai resident through online check-ins

English teacher Maha Khan was stalked by a spurned admirer through social media and online check-ins.
Maha Khan, a Pakistani charity worker, is the victim in a long stalking ordeal. Antonie Robertson / The National
Maha Khan, a Pakistani charity worker, is the victim in a long stalking ordeal. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Checking her Facebook feed put a woman at risk after a spurned admirer tracked her social media posts and began stalking her in Dubai.

English teacher Maha Khan, 40, met the man 24 years ago in Abu Dhabi.

Turning down the Pakistani man’s romantic advances started a chain of events that led to a warning from police for the unidentified man in Dubai years later.

“I had just started my university studies when a friend said he knew someone who had been admiring me for a couple of years,” Ms Khan said.

When she discovered the man was older and could not speak Urdu or English, she said she was not interested.

She changed her phone number but the man kept calling, offering her gifts.

One night he called and told her to look out of the window of her flat overlooking the Abu Dhabi Corniche. “He said he was going to jump into the sea to kill himself if I didn’t come down,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do, so I hung up. That was the last I heard from him.”

Fellow Pakistani Ms Khan, who is now active on social media, was shocked when a stranger began following her to venues where she was using public ­Wi-Fi networks.

“I’ve developed a healthy social media profile to promote my work. Recently, I started ­doing Facebook Live, where you broadcast publicly.

“A couple of weeks ago a guy messaged me, asking if I ­remembered him. He then called. I knew it was the same man, I could tell by his accent.”

Days later, when she was at the Jumeirah Four Seasons hotel, he appeared. Ms Khan told him to leave, and he ran off but then started messaging her on Instagram and WhatsApp.

“I had hardly any contact with him but he had formed a relationship between us in his head. It began to get scary,” she said.

“I’m tech savvy, so I know how to use the privacy settings but he still had access to my photographs. I still don’t know how he got my number.”

Ms Khan went to police in Bur Dubai. They called the man to the station. Police warned him and advised her to call them if he contacted her again.

“I feel very safe in Dubai,” Ms Khan said. “But this has worried me how quickly things can escalate, particularly when you are sharing things on social media.”

In 2014, a survey of 307 women survivors of domestic violence by UK charity Women’s Aid found 45 per cent reported some form of abuse online during relationships.

Forty-eight per cent reported harassment or abuse online from an ex-partner and 38 per cent reported online stalking.

Fadwa Lkorchy, a psychologist and counsellor at the German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai, said technology had made stalking more common.

“When I do couple therapy, I see a lot of the use of technology to watch an ex-partner’s movements,” she said. “This kind of behaviour can cause extreme anxiety for a victim.

“There can be long-term damage. It makes people feel vulnerable when they realise how accessible they are.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

Published: September 18, 2016 04:00 AM

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