ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
59°
Mostly Cloudy
H 70° L 55°
  • clear-night
    59°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 70° L 55°
  • cloudy-day
    73°
    Afternoon
    Mostly Cloudy. H 70° L 55°
  • cloudy-day
    67°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 77° L 59°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Florida ice rink banned skater for Iraqi heritage, suit claims

The Olympic dream of a Broward County ice skater has turned into an ugly dispute that has spawned a discrimination and defamation lawsuit against the West Palm Beach, Florida, skating rink where she once practiced.

Angela Aldahwi, a dual citizen of both the United States and Iraq, has filed suit against Palm Beach Ice Works in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, alleging that her daughter, Hyaat Aldahwi, was barred from the rink in 2013 when its owner, Lori Alf, learned that the teenage skater is of Iraqi descent and hoped someday to skate for Iraq in the Olympic Games.

Aldahwi says Alf orchestrated a campaign to intimidate her and her daughter during competitions, shunned them from the tight-knit skating community and subjected them to racist and obscene taunts, including references to the Aldahwis as "towel heads."

Alf, the suit claims, made comments to people in Hyaats peer group "to incite them to murder Hyaat andor Angela Aldahwi, with comments about the Aldahwis being ISIS and that they would end up in a ditch someday, meaning dead along the side of a road.'"

After the dispute became known, Alf hired a 6-foot-7-inch bodyguard to protect herself from what she told others could be an ISIS hit, the Aldahwis claim.

Alf denied the Aldahwis' allegations, saying they are baseless.

"Its extortion," Alf said in a brief telephone interview. "I never spoke to them."

Alf's attorney, Paul Ranis, said, "We deny we ever said those things. We believe when the truth comes out, we will prevail on all the claims."

Alf said Angela Aldahwi manages another rink in Pompano Beach, Glacier Ice and Snow Arena, and that that could be another reason for the lawsuit.

Aldahwi said she and her husband bought a small share in the Pompano rink in January 2016 to make sure Hyaat has a place to skate. Aldahwi added that she is president of the skating club at Glacier Ice and Snow, but she said she is not paid for her work at the arena, and she denied that her lawsuit is connected in any way to her co-ownership of Glacier Ice and Snow.

In 2014, after the Aldahwis said Hyaat Aldahwi was banned from Palm Beach Ice Works, the Aldahwis filed a formal complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which investigates alleged violations of the state's civil rights laws. Specifically, the Aldahwis claimed that Alf violated state law in banning Hyaat from the rink, a public accommodation, because of her national origin.

A complaint to the FCHR must be made before a civil rights lawsuit can be filed, though a suit can be brought regardless of the agency's findings.

FCHR Executive Director Michelle Williams wrote in June of 2014 that her agency investigated the Aldahwi allegation and "determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that an unlawful public accommodation practice occurred."

Alf scoffed at that determination, saying the agency often makes such conclusions so cases can move forward in the legal system.

Ranis said "rulings by the FCHR are not binding on the court."

The Aldahwis filed suit in January 2015, alleging that their civil rights were violated and that Alf's behavior constituted negligent infliction of emotional distress.

In June of 2015, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Gillen dismissed several counts of the Aldahwi lawsuit, ruling that the alleged behavior was not outrageous enough to meet the state standard for judicial action. The judge granted a motion for more clarity on other aspects of the allegations and gave the Aldahwis leave to amend their complaint.

The Aldahwis filed an amended complaint in October.

"I dont want this to happen to someones daughter or child again," Angela Aldahwi said.

In December, Ranis again filed a motion to have the case dismissed.

"These claims fail as a matter of law because the allegations in the amended complaint are duplicative of the previously dismissed allegations and do not allege outrageous conduct necessary to support such claims," the motion states.

Ranis has requested a hearing on the motion that has not yet been scheduled.

The Aldahwi suit names Palm Beach Ice Works, Alf and National Air Cargo Holdings, the parent company of a freight forwarding and logistics firm that does business with military and industrial clients. Alf, a National Air Cargo Holdings board member, worried that allowing Hyaat Aldahwi to skate at Ice Works could threaten Air Cargo contracts, according to the suit.

Air Cargos board directed Alf to ban Hyaat Aldahwi from the rink, according to the suit, which quotes Alf as saying: "We are not going to risk losing our contract because we have some Iraqi wannabe in our rink."

Ranis denied the Aldahwis account of why Hyaat was banned from the rink.

The Aldahwis said Hyaat was barred from the rink in January of 2013 after six months of training there without incident.

Hyaat Aldahwi began skating at age 2, when her father, Hayder Aldahwi, took her to Glacier Ice and Snow.

"He wanted me to try as many sports as possible," Hyaat said. "I don't think I ever wanted to leave and get off the ice."

Her mother said a dream quickly developed in her daughters mind.

"When Hyaat was very little, she said, One day Ill skate for Iraq. That was her dream."

Angela and Hyaat Aldahwi, who were both born in the U.S. and hold Iraqi citizenship through Hayder Aldahwi, decided to try to form one a skating team since Iraq doesnt have one. Angela Aldahwi, a sports psychologist, worked with the Iraqi Winter Sports Association, and Hyaat skated in international competitions for Iraq.

Both women say Iraqi Olympic officials embraced the idea of having a figure skating team compete in the games.

"She always used to say, 'I was the first Iraqi skater,'" Angela Aldahwi said.

Everything seemed to be on track for Hyaat to pursue her Olympic dream, Angela Aldahwi said. Then she and her husband gave their daughter a skating jacket for Christmas in 2012. The jacket had an embroidered picture of ice skates and the word "Iraq."

"Immediately upon seeing the word Iraq, Defendant Alf became belligerent toward the Aldahwis, and she announced that no skater would be allowed at the rink who was Iraqi," the suit claims.

Things came to a head in January 2013, when, according to the suit, an employee of Palm Beach Ice Works called Angela Aldahwi.

"You and your daughter are no longer allowed at Ice Works," the employee said. "You cannot train or participate in any activity."

A second employee told Angela Aldahwi they were being banned because Hyaat Aldahwi hoped to skate for Iraq, according to the suit.

Being barred from the rink wasn't just the loss of a place to skate, the Aldahwis said. It also meant losing access to Hyaat Aldahwis coach, who coached other skaters at the rink, one of whom was Lori Alf's daughter.

Hyaat Aldahwi said she continued skating, competing at various events, but "threats and abuse by the defandant continued," the Aldahwis' lawsuit states.

Hyatt, the suit claims, "experienced serious panic attacks, withdrawal, depression, lack of sleep, and loss of appetite," and her skating suffered.

"Hyaat is now petrified to skate in front of the Alfs," the suit states.

At one point, the lawsuit claims, when Hyaat and her mother walked into a rink, "people stated, referring to the Aldahwis, Look, here comes ISIS!"

"The Aldahwis inquired as to what they were talking about, and they stated, The Alfs told us about the lawsuit you have against them."

Ranis said the Aldahwis' suit does not spell out where, when and to whom those alleged comments were made -- points he has raised in his motion to dismiss the suit.

Hyaat Aldahwi said her friends in the tight-knit skating community felt they had a choice: Lori Alf or her and her mother. They chose Lori Alf, she said.

"When a former friend had a death in the family, Hyaat sent her a communication that expressed her condolences and included her name," the lawsuit states. "The individual wrote back, I do not know who this is."

Hyaat, now 18, said the experience was traumatic.

"I did lose a few friends over it," she said. "No one wanted to talk about it. No one knew how to talk about it."

Angela Aldahwi said she remembers telling her husband that their daughter had been banned from the rink.

"He said, 'What did you do?'" Angela Aldahwi said. "I said, 'Were Iraqi. Thats what we did.'"

After a recent fall during a competition where the Aldahwis said Alf watched Hyaat Aldahwi while she was on the ice, Hyaat Aldahwi told her mother she no longer wanted to skate competitively. Its been a decision her mother has struggled to accept.

"I said, 'You love the sport. Don't let someone take this away from you,'" Angela Aldahwi said. "She said, 'Mom, I cant do it. Its too much.'"

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • With no signs of any deal to restore funding for the federal government, lawmakers on Capitol Hill will be back for a rare Sunday session, with no real signs of an agreement to end the first government shutdown since 2013, as both parties continued to point the finger of blame at each other. The main stumbling block continues to be immigration, and what to do about hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant Dreamers in the United States, who were protected under the Obama Administration’s DACA program, which was ended by the Trump Administration in October. Republicans made clear – there is no deadline on DACA until March – as they said those negotiations should simply continue while the government is funded and operating. “I hope Senator Schumer comes to his senses and ends this shutdown madness sooner rather than later,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, taking aim at the Senate Democratic Leader. But for Democrats, they worry that the GOP will never deal on immigration and DACA, as their leaders have decided now is the time to press for action. During Saturday’s House and Senate sessions – where no obvious progress was made – Democrats continued to argue that Republicans were the problem, since the GOP is in charge of the House, Senate and White House. “Americans know Republicans own the Trump Shutdown,” said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY). “Anyone claiming otherwise should double check who has control in Congress.” Instead of signs of compromise, Saturday was mainly filled with tough rhetoric from both parties. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said President Trump’s grade for his first year in office was a “big fat failure F.” With no evidence of any deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a procedural vote for just after 1 am on Monday morning, trying to force action on a plan to extend government funding until February 8, as he again blamed Democrats for the impasse. If Democrats hold together as they did late on Friday night, then that motion would not get the needed 60 votes to end debate, meaning the shutdown would hit government offices on Monday morning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says “Congress has a lot of work to do” but it is being 'delayed by the Democrat’s filibuster' https://t.co/IU5LKpcVoB — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 20, 2018 Various federal agencies were still making their plans for Monday; one federal worker that I saw on Saturday evening said his office had been told to come in for four hours on Monday, and then they would likely be sent home if there was no funding plan approved by the Congress.
  • The Brevard County Sheriff's Office says a man is behind bars after allegedly stabbing his mother and stepfather early Saturday morning in Titusville.    According to deputies, authorities arrived at a house on the 1400 block of North Highway 1 around 4:45 a.m. to answer a report that a mother had been injured by her son.    Deputies spoke to the woman and found out that her husband was seriously injured as well.    Both victims were taken to the hospital in serious but stable condition.    The suspect, 28 year old Robert Hamm, was found in the area of Jay Jay Road and Snow Egret Drive.    Hamm was arrested without incident and is being held without bail in the Brevard County Jail.    Hamm faces two counts of attempted first degree murder.
  • Taking steps to 'further protect its customers, employees and service and support animals, Delta Air Lines is having new requirements for those who wish to travel with trained service and support animals.   According to a statement, customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, and even spiders. Delta has reportedly seen an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016, and even an attack by a 70 pound dog last year.    Staring March 1st, any customer traveling with a service or support animal must meet these new requirements:    Traveling with a trained service animal:    Customers traveling with a trained service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date) for their animal to Delta’s Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com at least 48 hours in advance of travel.    Traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal:    Customers traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date), an Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Request form which requires a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form to Delta’s Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com at least 48 hours in advance of travel.    This desk will verify that the documentation is received and will confirm the travel reservation prior to your arrival at the airport. Any information not completed will be made known to you via email from a representative.    The type of accepted animals, as well as related questions can be found here.
  • A 17 year old is in stable condition after being shot Friday afternoon inside a home.   At 3:32 p.m., Sanford Police responded to a shooting with injuries report at 1314 Olive Avenue. The police went inside the house and found the teenager was shot.    The Sanford Fire Department took the victim to the hospital where police say the teen is in stable condition.    Police also say they have spoken with several people inside the home during the shooting and that witnesses are cooperating with investigators.    Investigators believe the shooting is an isolated incident and is not connected to any recent shootings in the area.    Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Sanford Police Department or Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS(8477).
  • Hours after funding lapsed for the federal government at midnight, lawmakers in both parties returned for an unusual Saturday session of the House and Senate, as both parties quickly launched themselves into finger pointing over who is to blame for the first government shutdown since 2013, with few signs that a deal was near on the major spending and immigration issues that brought about the standoff. “Get it together,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi bluntly said to Republicans in a morning speech on the House floor, as she led a chorus from her party in blaming the President for the budgetary impasse. “The Trump travesty continues, as it has for the last twelve months,” said Pelosi’s top lieutenant, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). But Republicans were having none of that. “We’re about nine hours into the Schumer shutdown,” said Rep. Greg LaMalfa (R-CA) as the House convened, “which is basically Senate Democrats holding the United States, 320 million people, hostage.” Greetings from the Capitol this Saturday morning, where we have evidence of the shutdown: Capitol tours are suspended. pic.twitter.com/rfPAlLLlIQ — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) January 20, 2018 “There is no excuse for this,” said Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA). “Democrats shut down the govt to protect illegals this week,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). Behind the scenes, lawmakers in both parties were still hoping to cut a deal that would have the government fully open by Monday – but there was little evidence of a possible breakthrough on the broader budget and immigration issues which led to this stalemate. Negotiations have centered on reaching a two year agreement on spending levels for the budget – as President Trump wants a sizable increase in the military’s budget – and on DACA, where Democrats were still hoping to get an agreement that would protect some 700,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” from being deported. As the clock ticked toward midnight on Friday night, there were a flurry of talks on the Senate floor between Senators of both parties – not really about the specifics of the budget or DACA – but mainly about the length of any temporary funding plan for the government, and plans to vote on that hot button immigration topic. “Since there were discussions here in earnest, in a bipartisan way, we ought to give those discussions a chance to bear fruit,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “We should stay and work,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “Senator McConnell chose to shut the government down,” referring to the GOP leader in the Senate. But the underlying issues remain fraught with political problems, especially on immigration, where many Republicans see no direct link between funding the government and a deal on DACA and illegal immigrant “Dreamers.” “This Schumer Shutdown is absolutely ridiculous,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “It is totally irresponsible for the Democrats to use government funding as a bargaining chip.” At the White House, there was no sign that the President was going to cave on Democratic demands on immigration, as officials accused Democrats of doing all they could to slow political momentum from a big GOP tax cut plan that was signed into law in December. One year into the Trump presidency, Democrats can't shut down the booming Trump economy so they shut down the government instead. This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. Do your job Democrats: fund our military and reopen our government #SchumerShutdown — Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 20, 2018 Democrats said they thought they were close to a deal with the President on Friday over DACA and other immigration issues, but that Mr. Trump backed off, again emphasizing the uncertainty that surrounds talks with the White House on major legislative issues. Even if the Senate were to approve a bill which combined provisions on DACA and the Dreamers, along with other items on border security, most Republicans say that would have little chance in the House, where GOP lawmakers favor a much tougher approach. One obvious difference between this shutdown and the one in 2013, is seen right here in Washington, D.C., where outdoor memorials and the Smithsonian museums were still open. Those were shut down by the Obama Administration last time, in what Republicans said was an effort to punish the GOP for a shutdown battle. FYI for anyone visiting DC this weekend: The @smithsonian museums WILL be open Saturday and Sunday. I was told they are not sure if they'll have to close Monday, though. They were waiting for guidance. — Daniella Diaz (@DaniellaMicaela) January 20, 2018