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Muslim teen in hijab punched repeatedly during alleged hate crime on transit
VANCOUVER -- Police are asking for the public's help identifying a suspect in an alleged hate crime that targeted a Muslim teenager who was wearing a hijab on public transit.
Authorities said the 17-year-old victim and her mother boarded a bus in downtown Vancouver on the afternoon of May 21, and that a fellow passenger began mocking her ethnicity and asking if she was Canadian.
The suspect then told her, "Your smile is making me want to punch you in the face," or something to that effect, before punching the teenager in the head several times and partially knocking off her headscarf, according to a news release from Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
The victim's mother and another passenger intervened, and the suspect got off the bus at Hastings Street and Jackson Avenue. The Good Samaritan followed her and called 911 only to be attacked as well, police said.
Authorities allege the suspect took off her boots and began hitting the Good Samaritan, then brandished a knife and ran away.
The teen victim wasn't physically injured during the attack but was left shaken up, and did not want to speak publicly on Monday. The director of the Muslim Care Centre, a charity in the Downtown Eastside where she volunteers, told CTV News she is an honour student in high school who is attending university next year.
"She's keeping her hopes and spirit high. She is a very strong person," said Adnan Akiel, the director of the centre.
Akiel said that while the teenager was victimized by the incident, they feel pity for the assailant as well.
"The real victim of this incident and incidents like these are people who subject themselves to their own ignorance and their own hate," he said.
"This is the time that we stand up as proud Muslims and we carry on proudly living as Muslims. We take our faith and we do our part in educating everyone else."
On Monday, almost two weeks after the incident, authorities released a pair of suspect images and a surveillance video in the hopes that someone will recognize the suspect and come forward.
She is described as being about 40 years old, 5'8" tall and approximately 140 lbs. She was wearing a black hat, dark sunglasses, a dark top with the word "Pink" written on the back, blue jean shorts, black boots and a distinct silver backpack that changes colour in different lights.
Authorities asked anyone with information on her identity or the incident to call the transit police tip line at 604-516-7419.
"There is no place for hate, racism or biases on the transit system. All passengers using our transit system have the right to travel without fear of harassment or assault," Metro Vancouver Transit Police said.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alissa Thibault