Ikea assault mum: 'I didn't know if my baby was alive or dead'

A mother who was viciously assaulted by three men in the cafeteria of the Ikea store in Dubai when she was seven and a half months pregnant has described the anguish of not knowing if her unborn child was alive or dead.

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DUBAI // A mother who was viciously assaulted by three men when she was seven and a half months pregnant has described the anguish of not knowing if her unborn child was alive or dead.
Bleeding heavily and with a dislocated jaw, she was rushed to hospital for emergency treatment to avert a miscarriage - and doctors took 20 minutes to find her baby's heartbeat. "I was insane during those 20 minutes until they finally found it," she told The National in an exclusive interview yesterday.
Her baby girl was delivered a few weeks later, three weeks premature but in good health.
"When a pregnant woman is in shock, her body ejects the child immediately, you can just see the situation we were in during that time," the woman's husband said yesterday. "I cried like a baby when my daughter was delivered, partly from joy and partly from relief."
The Canadian couple were assaulted in the cafeteria of the Ikea store in Dubai on June 13, 2009. This week the three Emirati brothers who attacked them were sentenced to a month in prison and fined Dh12,000 at Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance.
The couple's ordeal began while they were finishing their meal in the cafe at a large table for 12, and one of the brothers ordered them to move because the table was reserved for his family.
"I was not even challenged to a fight," the husband said. "They came up to us and told us that the table was reserved. I told them, my wife is pregnant and we have been sitting here for 20 minutes and are almost finished with our food, so we are about to leave anyway."
He was then punched in the back of the head and knocked unconscious. "He just said, 'Move now because I told you to move', and then he hit me."
His wife said: "The table was kicked across, almost hitting my belly. Then the older man punched me, knocking me to the ground.
"While my husband was unconscious one of the men grabbed a hard wooden stool and was about to hit him with it, but thank God for the intervention of a Syrian man and an Australian man who were in the cafeteria.
"After other women who were there picked me up and sat me on a chair, a security guard approached me and suggested that we move to a secure location."
Her husband said: "When you go to a family place you feel secure, but I realised in fact you are not."
The expectant mother was treated in hospital for a dislocated jaw that had to be wired shut for two weeks, and a twisted leg that was put in a plaster cast.
When doctors gave her the all-clear the couple left for Canada, where their baby was delivered.
Two months later they returned to Dubai, and visited Rashidiya police station more than 20 times before the case was moved to the prosecutors' office.
"More than the physical damage we suffered is the mental damage," the mother said. She still suffers nightmares and feels terrified when she sees men who look like her attackers.
"I was terrified when I came back and even today I cannot go to Ikea or pass by it," she said. "I am a strong woman, but just talking about it makes me shiver, and it makes me angry that I could not defend myself."
Despite widespread criticism of the apparent leniency of the sentence imposed on the attackers, the couple expressed their gratitude to the court.
"We are happy that the case came to court and that they were prosecuted, and we really appreciate the court for finding them guilty despite all that has happened." the husband said.
They also intend to take the matter further, to send out a message that such behaviour must not be tolerated, and will be filing a civil lawsuit against their attackers.
"We are appealing the sentence and waiting for the court proceedings to be complete before the civil suit begins," the husband said. "We are going to take this to the end. We have to finish this, and we have only started."
amustafa@thenational.ae