In a horrifying intrusion into her privacy, a woman has been forced to pull her knickers down and show her blooded sanitary towel during an airport screening.
Harvard University graduate student Zainab Merchant was flying from Boston to Washington, D.C. to attend a speaking engagement when the humiliating incident occurred.
While at Boston Logan airport, a female Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer reportedly patted the Florida resident down, while a second female officer enquired, ‘Is this the selectee we were waiting for?’
The officers then removed Zainab’s surgery brace, which she had required following a tailbone injury. And matters only continued to escalate from there.
After touching her groin, the first officer said they needed to ‘take a deeper look’ and Zainab was informed a private screening would be required.
Zainab tried to explain how she was on her period and that what the officers were feeling was her sanitary towel. However, she was given no choice.
Once she was taken to a private room and forbidden to call her lawyer, Zainab was ordered to pull down her knickers and show the TSA officers her blooded pad, according to the Huffington Post.
After she complied with the disturbing demand, Zainab asked the officers for their names. Ignoring this request, the officers concealed their name badges before walking away.
The treatment of Zainab Merchant and other Middle East/ South Asian/ Muslim folks is despicable. There is absolutely no reason why she was forced to show their menstrual hygiene product- clearly an abuse of power and incredibly inhumane/traumatic. @ACLU @BostonLogan @SenWarren
— Samira سمیرا (@samira_says) August 23, 2018
Zainab Merchant was asked by TSA to show her bloodied pad through airport security. HER ??LITERAL??BLOODY??PAD??. That’s degrading and humiliating. What’s next? Y’all wanna check our feces too? Make sure our bowel movements aren’t a threat to national security?Disgusted.
— nashiha_pervin (@NashihaPervin) August 24, 2018
Zainab Merchant wasn't only profiled for #FlyingWhileMuslim she was also questioned for criticizing the US government on her blog. Two years ago TSA agents pulled me aside when I landed in Miami on a flight from Qatar. They asked me…
— Habib Battah (@habib_b) August 23, 2018
This isn’t the first time Zainab – a muslim woman and writer – has been subjected to excessive checks while travelling.
Among other intrusions, Zainab has previously been quizzed by officers about her about her faith and even asked about her thoughts on ISIS.
In the past, officers have referred to her website Zainab Rights and have questioned her for writing criricism on US policy.
Zainab told the Huffington Post:
Every single time, I was being put through extra screening,
It was the same exact thing every time. By the third time it happened, I realized this is not random. There is definitely a pattern to this, and I’m on some kind of list that is making me go through this again and again.
I hope that they hear us loud and clear, I’m not going to stop fighting for my rights.
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.
I was a TSA supervisor for 7 years. There was no occasion where you were to remove undergarments. If it came to something like that Airport police were required to be there. If this happened it was a fucked up officer not following established policy
— What can red do for you? (@kerstetterjohn) August 23, 2018
She was violated. Period. Point. Blank.
— BeeYeaux (@Free2bBee) August 23, 2018
The American Civil Liberites Union (ACLU) have since launched an official complaint on Zainab’s behalf, stating how her treatment ‘raises concerns about discrimination and unlawful profiling’.
The ACLU believes Zainab’s treatment is due to her being placed on a government watchlist, on account of her religion and her writing.
A TSA spokesperson told the Huffington Post:
The Department of Homeland Security can neither confirm nor deny whether someone is on a watch list or provide any information about an individual who may be on federal watchlists or reveal any law enforcement sensitive information.
What happened to #ZainabMerchant is happening to ALL people of darker skin tones. On my most recent travel to San Francisco from Los Angeles I was brought into an interrogation room while my mom had a panic attack outside with my brother. They said some items in my luggage…
— A (@GCLVGC) August 24, 2018
I really hope Zainab Merchant sues TSA airport and security guards.
— . (@lifeofmaryamx) August 24, 2018
Everyone with a belief in the principles of morality & rule of law should oppose this disgusting behaviour towards Zainab Merchant who’s an innocent and highly intelligent Muslim woman. The TSA officials are abusing their code of conduct with no concrete evidence. #Justice
— Blue Swan (@certablue) August 23, 2018
Going forward, Zainab intends to continue fighting for her human rights, and hopes to clear her name from any potential watch list.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.