Muslim woman forced to show officials her pad during airport screening
Muslim woman claims was forced to show her bloody menstrual pad to TSA agents
Zainab Merchant says she gets stopped every time she travels.
A Muslim woman claims she was forced to show her bloody menstrual pad to Transportation Security Administration agents on a March 2019 trip out of Boston Logan Airport.
Zainab Merchant, a graduate student at Harvard University and the founder and editor of the website Zainab Rights, was traveling from Boston to Washington, DC, for a speaking engagement when TSA agents pulled her aside for extra screenings including a pat-down, according to the ACLU.
After publicly patting Merchant down in her groin area, one TSA agent allegedly called for "a deeper look," Huffington Post reports. Initially, Merchant says she resisted because she was concerned about what would happen to her in a private space. Instead, she asked that any additional screening somewhere there would be witnesses, according to the outlet.
But according to Merchant, the TSA agents said that if she did not comply state troopers would be called in. And according to the ACLU, Merchant was not allowed to call her lawyer. Eventually, per to the ACLU, the officers forced her to agree to the additional screening alone in a room with two TSA officers.
Once in the private office, she was patted down, forced to remove her pants and underwear, and show her bloody menstrual pad to the TSA officers, the Huffington Post reports. After this, the screening abruptly ended, the ACLU complaint says. When Merchant asked the agents for their names or badge ID numbers, they said nothing, covered their badges, and left the room, according to the ACLU.
On August 14, the ACLU filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security on Merchant's behalf. According to Merchant's ACLU complaint, she has been stopped and searched extensively every time she has traveled over the last two years. Officials have questioned her about her religious beliefs, views on and affiliation with ISIS, and her blog posts that criticized the US government, among other things, per the complaint.
Given that the TSA and Customs and Border Patrol have repeatedly selected Merchant for "intrusive, humiliating," searches that the ACLU describes as "duplicative and unnecessary" the organization believes she has been placed on a Department of Homeland Security watch list.
A TSA spokesperson told the Huffington Post the agency could "neither confirm nor deny whether someone is on a watch list or provide any information about an individual who may be on federal watch lists or reveal any law enforcement sensitive information."
And a US Customs and Border Patrol agent told the Post the agency "cannot comment on pending litigation."
Merchant isn't the only person who feels they've been unfairly targeted when traveling. In July, a woman named Sylvia Acosta claimed she was stopped when reentering the country after a customs agent accused her of attempted human trafficking because she and her daughter don't have the same last name.
Merchant says she won't stop pushing until she gets answers.
"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," Merchant told the Huffington Post.
Video: Muslim woman says, she was forced to speak against Triple Talaq in viral video, later apologizes
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