Following the release of a viral video that showed former Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies Anila Daulatzai being forcibly removed from a Southwest Airlines flight, Brown community members have circulated a petition demanding Daulatzai receive justice for her treatment.
On Sept. 26, Daulatzai was dragged off of a Southwest flight by police officers while nearby passengers recorded the altercation. For refusing to leave the plane, Daulatzai was charged with “disorderly conduct, failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order, disturbing the peace, obstructing and hindering a police officer and resisting arrest,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Previous media reports said Daulatzai told the flight crew that she had a life threatening dog allergy and that she requested an EpiPen as there were two dogs on the same flight.
According to a press release issued by Southwest, Daulatzai failed to produce a medical certificate confirming her allergy and the airline company policy dictates that “a customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard.” Because Daulatzai refused to leave the plane, Southwest said that the flight crew requested the Maryland Transportation Authority Police have her removed from the cabin.
On Southwest’s website, there is no mention of requiring passengers with severe animal allergies to present a medical certificate or they could be subject to removal from the flight.
A statement issued by Daulatzai’s lawyer said Daulatzai “never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane, did not request an EpiPen, nor did she ever claim that her allergies were life-threatening.”
The statement accuses Southwest of providing the media with a false representation of what Daulatzai endured. After allegedly agreeing with the flight crew on the plane that she could manage sitting “comfortably distant from the animals,” Daulatzai was approached by Southwest employees who proceeded to ask her a series of questions.
“She was never asked for medical certification, nor would she have needed to carry that because her allergies are not life threatening. Despite trying to convince the crew that she would be completely fine on the plane, she was asked by another Southwest representative to leave the plane,” according to the statement.
After disclosing that Daulatzai was pregnant at the time and that the police ripped her pants when aggressively pulling her from her seat, the statement also states that she was “profiled, abused, interrogated, detained and subjected to false reporting and the trauma of racist, vitriolic public shaming precisely because she is a woman, a person of color and a Muslim.”
Daulatzai contests her charges and will seek legal action against Southwest.
The maltreatment Daulatzai experienced prompted her former student, Amara Majeed ’19 to create an online petition to demand justice for her professor and an apology from Southwest.
The petition, which as of press time has over 2,000 signatures, argues that Daulatzai’s removal was rooted in racism and Islamophobia. The petition also demands Southwest to issue “an official apology, not some staged cover-up, to Daulatzai, acknowledging the Islamophobic and racist roots of this horrible incident.”
Additionally the petition demands the airline company to “implement anti-Islamophobia, anti-racism, … implicit biases trainings for all of its employees working on its aircrafts … (and) condemn police brutality.”
It closes with a demand to obtain justice for Doulatzai in addition to “justice for passengers of color, Muslims passengers and passengers racialized as Muslims that are subject to this form of institutionalized Islamophobia and racism.”
If Southwest fails to meet these demands, the petition also states that the signatories will refuse to “fly (with) an airline that treats people of color and Muslims in this way.”
Majeed, who took a class taught by Daulatzai last spring, said she was compelled to create the petition because she cares about Daulatzai as a former professor and friend. “She’s the best professor that I’ve ever had,” Majeed said. “As a visible Muslim in the Trump era, she provided such a safe space for me and made me feel so comfortable.”
After watching the video of Daulatzai being removed by officers from the plane, Majeed added, “to see someone, especially someone (I) care about, being treated … and handled in that way was absolutely heartbreaking and very painful for me to watch.”
“It was very important to create this petition and … Southwest needs to be held accountable,” Majeed said.
While Southwest issued an apology for how the situation unfolded and Daulatzai’s removal by law enforcement officers, Majeed said their apology did not go far enough because they failed to acknowledge that their initial representation of events was misleading. “She never had any kind of life-threatening allergy … (but) for that to be in all these (news) articles is a total cover up.”
For that reason, Majeed said that she “strongly urge(s) for them to admit the racist and Islamophobic underpinnings of this incident.”
While Majeed organized the petition on her own, she said that a letter expressing solidarity and addressed by a coalition of Daulatzai’s former students will be released soon.