Somali Scare

Mental illness may have caused a woman's terror-evoking rant on a local school bus.

When Seattle Weekly met Ubax Gardheere a few months ago for a feature story on the Somali community, she was handing out worksheets and snacks at a tutoring program she ran at a SeaTac YMCA. College-educated and soft-spoken (as well as heavily pregnant), the 29-year-old Somali immigrant was working with a coalition trying to counter the image of her compatriots as potential terrorists.Yet on Jan. 12, a little after 7:30 a.m., she boarded a Highline School District bus and scared the wits out of a bunch of middle-schoolers with a rant that seemed like the threats of a militant. First telling the driver to call his dispatcher because a "national security incident was going on," according to court documents, she then blamed the U.S. for the violent chaos in Somalia."You need to calm yourself down 'cause I could have a bomb," she told the kids as some started to run off the bus.King County Sheriff's deputies soon arrived and arrested her, at which point she said, "I am prepared to die." They found no bomb. What they did find, judging by her state last week as she walked into Seattle Weekly's office to tell her story, was a distraught and confused woman.Periodically crying and throwing out her hands, as if to say "I don't understand this either," Gardheere said she had been hospitalized for mental illness, including postpartum depression, after she gave birth to her oldest son three years ago.She said her mental condition worsened after she stopped in Dubai to see in-laws on her way to visit Somalia in 2008. Then, according to her account, she was nearly raped by someone at the house where she was staying—and beaten up by police when she tried to report the incident. She has clearly been beaten up at some point in her past. She sent SW pictures.She claimed family members told her not to talk about the incidents because public knowledge of them would drag their "honor" through the mud.All this fed into her mind-set last week when a dispute among coalition members made something snap, Gardheere said.She said she wandered off from her home that Monday morning when she saw the bus. She boarded it and started rambling. "I'm thinking in my head, 'What can I say or do that will get you taken to jail instead of a mental institute?'"If that's the case, Gardheere got her wish, though she is now out on bail. The irony is that the felony charge she was arraigned on this week—threats to bomb or injure property—will feed a public perception of Somalis that is exactly what she has been trying to fight. She pleaded not guilty.

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