A Muslim woman was allegedly forced to show her bloodied pad during a horrifying airport screening.
Zainab Merchant, a Harvard University graduate, was flying from Boston to Washington, D.C. when she says that, during an additional pat-down, a TSA officer told other agents she needed to take a “deeper look” after pubically patting down Merchant’s groin area.
Merchant says she at first resisted, explaining to the officers that she was on her period, but the TSA officials refused and said state troopers would intervene if she continued to resist, while denying her access to a lawyer.
She says she was then let into a private room where TSA offices demanded that she pull down her pants and underwear, revealing her bloodied menstrual pad.
Merchant, humiliated, says she asked for the officers’ names and badge numbers to report the incident, but the officers hid their badges with their hands and walked away.
This is the most horrendous TSA story that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard many over the years. May Allah give comfort to Sister Zainab. https://t.co/owz5FtyNag
— Dawud Walid (@DawudWalid) August 24, 2018
The incident took place on March 3rd this year and is part of at least 10 detailed accounts of a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on August 14th on behalf of Zainab.
The ACLU believe that she is subjected to repeated screening because she has been placed on a government watchlist, saying she has undergone “intrusive, humiliating searches”. The complaint says she has been interrogated about her religious beliefs, asked her thoughts about ISIS, and asked why criticises American government policies.
Zainab is refusing to back down and demands to understand why she is subject to humiliating searches and why she has been placed on a watchlist, saying,
“I’m not going to stop fighting for my rights. This is affecting us on a daily basis now. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to give up, no matter what happens. I just want them to give us answers as to why this is happening and what I can do to rectify it, because I haven’t done anything wrong. Just give us some answers.”
The TSA is notorious among the Muslim community for alleged racial profiling and humiliating experiences.
Another American Muslim woman, Rejhane Lazoja, is suing US border agents after they seized her phone when she refused to unlock it for them, alleging that the agents took a copy of her smartphone data and failed to say whether or not it has been deleted. The smartphone contains images of Ms. Lazoja without her headscarf.
For anyone who doubts that TSA abuses their power and systematically targets Muslims. Please share 👇🏻 https://t.co/DrdM08HqF5
— Shaykh Azhar Nasser (@ShaykhAzhar) August 24, 2018
Upon investigation of thousands of TSA documents in 2017, the ACLU found “an overt bias against Arabs, Muslims, and people of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent”.
According to classified government documents, over 700,000 Americas were placed on the Terrorist Screening Database, a U.S. government watchlist. Many on the list are Muslim, have a Middle Eastern or South Asian background, and have no connection to any terrorist group.
Also published on Medium.