Most women have experienced the excruciating invasion of privacy while going through security at an airport. If you’re lucky, the x-ray screening will suffice and you just go on your way. However, more often than not, another pat down is required. These pat downs aren’t gentle touches to private areas, they’re intense and terrible. If you’re a minority — particularly Muslim it’s even worse.
Zainab Merchant, a Muslim-American Harvard student, has had her fair share of inappropriate airport screenings. Every single time she takes a flight, domestic or otherwise, she has to show up even earlier than the 2-hour requirement. She knows full well that TSA will always single her out just because she’s Muslim. But recently, security was worse than ever.
During a flight to Orlando from Boston, Merchant was once again patted down. But when TSA touched her private area they felt her menstrual pad. They then asked for a closer inspection of her groin area.
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
According to the Huffington Post: “Merchant said she resisted at first, telling the two TSA officers that she was on her period and therefore wearing a menstrual pad. She insisted that any additional screening be done in public, fearing that if she went into a private room without any other witnesses, the situation would only escalate.”
Merchant said, according to the HuffPo, that she indeed went to a private room where she had to drop her pants and reveal her bloodied pad. “After complying with the bizarre and intrusive request, she asked for the officers’ names and badge numbers to report the horrifying experience, but the TSA officers covered their badges with their hands and walked away, she said.”
Every time Floridian Zainab Merchant flies, officers force her to undergo two different searches, placing their hands all over her body and rummaging her bags — without explicit cause.
Help stop the harassment of her and all airport passengers. https://t.co/POPjltL3jf
— ACLU of Florida (@ACLUFL) August 22, 2018
The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding to know why Merchant continues to be harassed every single time she takes a flight. “Zainab has done nothing that would justify these traumatizing airport security screenings, yet they have forced her to make significant personal and professional sacrifices,” the ACLU writes. “Now she and her husband avoid flying as a family to spare her children from seeing their parents demeaned by U.S. government officials. Faced with the prospect of undergoing the same invasive screening protocol every time she flies, Zainab also decided to withdraw from her courses at Harvard. Not being able to know the reason for the screenings – despite repeated requests – makes her situation even more unbearable.”
If you think this is wrong, the ACLU says there’s a way you can help. “All of us need to speak out now to remind DHS that airport checkpoints and inspection areas aren’t outside the law. Add your name to demand that DHS stop excessively screening Zainab Merchant and conduct a full review of its policies so that no other passengers are forced to endure such abuse.”