South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), joined 30 other national and local civil rights organizations,* including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in condemning Southwest Airlines' treatment of a pregnant Muslim-American professor, Anila Daulatzai, in September.
In a letter sent to Southwest Airlines and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA) on October 19, 2017, the coalition of civil rights organizations wrote in part:
"Our organizations are appalled at the mistreatment of Anila Daulatzai by Southwest Airlines and the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA). We support Ms. Daulatzai's demands and call for changes in policy and practice on the part of Southwest Airlines and the MDTA.
"Communities of color unfortunately endure profiling at airports and on airlines on a regular basis. In fact, Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Sikh passengers have experienced a disproportionately high level of discrimination in the 16 years since September 11, 2001. 'Flying while brown' means that passengers are often subjected to secondary screenings, interrogations, bodily searches, and removal from airplanes for no legitimate reason at all.
"Anila Daulatzai, a pregnant woman who is a Pakistani American and a Muslim, is the latest person to face this type of airline discrimination. In her case, Southwest Airlines staff insisted that Daulatzai deplane her flight because of a dog allergy even though she had made it clear that her allergies were not life-threatening. Instead of believing Daulatzai's own statements about her physical conditions, Southwest Airlines personnel chose to escalate the situation by alerting the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (MDTA). According to Daulatzai, MDTA law enforcement agents pulled her from her seat via her belt loop, tore her pants, and dragged her through the aisle. They then allegedly made racist remarks about immigrants and charged her with disorderly conduct and other criminal charges.
"Ms. Daulatzai's mistreatment by Southwest Airlines is part of a pattern and practice of profiling. Between 2015 and 2016, over a period of just six months, several Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers reported incidents of being rebooked for their appearance, removed from a flight for speaking in Arabic in a private phone conversation or simply for asking to switch seats.
"We call upon the MDTA to drop the criminal charges against Ms. Daulatzai. We also call
upon both the MDTA and Southwest Airlines to provide adequate and appropriate
restitution to Ms. Daulatzai. In addition, we demand that both the MDTA and Southwest
Airlines make systemic changes to their policies and protocols. We call upon both entities
to disclose their protocols for responding to passenger-related situations aboard flights,
including their trainings and practices around de-escalation and mediation tactics. We
continue to demand that Southwest Airlines training policies be disclosed publicly, and
that personnel at all levels be provided with mandatory and regular trainings on conflict
resolution, de-escalation tactics, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, and anti-racism. We call
upon the MDTA to engage in regular trainings on Islamophobia, systemic racism,
xenophobia, anti-Blackness, and implicit bias."
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Advocates for Youth
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
Andolan: Organizing South Asian Workers
Asian American Psychological Association
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA
Defending Rights & Dissent
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
Jewish Voice for Peace – Network Against Islamophobia
Jews Say No!
Muslim Youth Network
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA)
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF)
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD)
National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)
National Organization for Women
National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)
Turning Point for Women and Families
Last year, in response to numerous incidents of profiling against our communities on Southwest Airlines flights, SAALT and our partners sent multiple communications to Southwest, including to CEO Gary Kelly, expressing concerns with their pattern and practice of racially profiling passengers. Disappointingly, all we received was one unsatisfactory response after another. As a result, SAALT terminated its 7-year relationship with Southwest and gave back $10,000 in grant funding. SAALT and our partners will continue to hold Southwest accountable until our communities are treated with dignity and equality.