No, they did not upgrade me. The woman at the check in counter stamped SSSS in bright pink on my boarding pass, which meant that I had to go through extra screening. It is all fine and dandy if everyone had to go through it and it was the norm or if people going thru the humiliation weren't called Secondary and paraded in front of all the other normal passengers, singled out, humiliated and mocked at by security personnel, whose ABC of public manners leave a lot open for questions. 

I know how sad it must be for them to go through people's personal items and dirty underwear, and carry our shoes for us from one place to the other, while we are being paraded bare-footed while they completed their search for the missing link in your carry ons. 

But I don't understand why I am being singled out for this special treatment as I pass in and out of US airports and demand an explanation. And an explanation I hope to get: 

Here's my email to the Air Canada customer service: 

Dear Customer Service People, 
I have just gone through the most humiliating experience in my life ever - and singled out for extra screening, called a secondary and laughed, ridiculed and mocked at the San Francisco Airport, because the Air Canada staff at the check in counter singled me out for extra screening. I would like to know why? And I would like to know whether my ethnicity, race and colour had anything to do with it? I demand a full explanation please. 

Their website says to give them five days to respond. Let's keep counting folks! 

I have twittered my experience at @JustAmira 

10 comments:

Amjad said...

Being selected for the secondary screening security is normal, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you're Arab. You won't get an explanation from them, because everybody can go through this, even white Americans, and I say that because myself I have seen white Americans going through this in front of every single person in the airport.

However, what is not normal is when the security staff leave your bag in an unacceptable status and don't return it as it was when they got it. They can search my bags all they want, take every single thing out and do whatever they want to do. I don't mind. But what I REALLY mind is them leaving my stuff out of the bag and not returning the stuff into the bag EXACTLY as they were. That's absolutely unacceptable, and you deserved a sincere apology for that instead of being laughed at.

SillyBahrainiGirl said...

Agreed Amjad. Procedure is procedure, if applied to everyone across the board and not dished out because of a person's ethnicity. I am sure it is my name which triggers their alarm bells and I need them to tell me that. At least then I will know. Otherwise, how can I be singled out for this special treatment in every 8 out of 10 flights?

Also, I don't appreciate those people pointing at me and describing me as "secondary." That is so demeaning and humiliating beyond what words can describe.

And they said it was Air Canada which asked them to put me through this procedure. So Air Canada has to explain.

Summer said...

sorry that you had to go through this!! please keep us updated to or if air canada ever write you back. good luck!

Tallouza said...

Unfortunately what they did to you is absolutely legal. We Arabs happen to be the proud recipients of the profiling certification, which makes it justifiable for an absolute idiot who probably does not even know where Bahrain is to determine that you are a threat to the security of the USA. A country that has been busy in systematically terrorizing, destroying, violating, robbing our countries while leaving them in total shambles. The price of all of this is that we the victims of this organized crime become accused as the criminals by those killing us. The sad part is that they are getting away with it. The sadder part is that we have no one to blame except ourselves. Sorry you had to go through this horrific experience.

kinzi said...

Amira, I am so sorry. Especially if you felt ridiculed. I hope you got the name of the person who humiliated you so.

I don't know if this encourages you, but our blonde family of six is routinely pulled aside for additional clearance. One time we were pulled out of line with another Arab family with just as many kids, and the mom and I laughed at what an encouragement it was to her that we were with them having our toddler's shoes inspected.

Once going through Heathrow I was harshly questioned and it was implied that I must have a problem living in Jordan for so long. Sigh.

AbortRetry said...

I'm no fan of AC to be sure (I work for a competitor) but one trip I got marked for special screening on 3 out of 4 legs. I'm 6', male, Caucasian.

Normally these selections are done using a completely random method - I'm just guessing you got unlucky.

Abdelhalim said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secondary_Security_Screening_Selection

Katrina said...

Maybe it is random (I'm hoping so) My entire family myself, my husband and my children who are 10, 8 and 4! (YES 4 years old selected for special screening) Leaving Orlando arriving in Toronto on Air Canada. We are all Canadian born and caucasian with "canadian" last names.
It really rubbed me the wrong way too. I had no idea what to expect and most (not all) security officers were rude! Yes they have to do their job but if people like us didn't travel, they wouldn't have a job!

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