#RedefineSecurity: Sahar Shafqat, 44 (Washington DC)

Sahar Shafqat“When I was on my way to India with Sapna, my wife, we received boarding passes with a quadruple S (SSSS) security code. I had received that code before, so we knew: it’s going to be one of those security experiences. A TSA agent opened up a security line just for us. Each of us needed to go through the security x-ray machine alone, and we could not stand near each other. That was very isolating. I could see my wife, Sapna, being physically checked very thoroughly, and then her belongings checked very thoroughly. This is somebody who is my life partner, who I love, who I’m very protective of. And I watched her privacy and her person being violated, and I was helpless. I couldn’t do anything about it, because in this system, this is the way she’s supposed to be treated.

Then it was my turn. Sapna was clearly very upset, very angry and very shaken. I ask her if she’s okay and shesays yes, but not very convincingly. A female agent starts doing a pat-down on me, but it’s not like a pat-down you’ve ever experienced. It’s very invasive – really being touched in an intimate way. It’s not just about checking your pockets, it’s really going all the way up the inside of your leg to your pelvis. She said “I’m going to take my hand all the way up until I can’t go anymore,” and that’s really what it was. Even my short hair was manually checked with the TSA agent using her gloved hands and fingers, adding to the humiliation.

All of our belongings were assumed to be suspect – it was presumption of guilt, and the burden was on us to prove otherwise. I had a computer that had to be turned on. Every single item was individually checked – forexample, every single credit card inside my wallet was pulled out and manually checked. That was how invasive the check was. For brown and black people in America, our bodies are constructed as dangerous, as almost superhuman. The idea that we are strange beings that can somehow evade the normal screening process is racist. The thought is that I must be hiding some explosives in my computer or in some orifice of mine, just because I’m brown and traveling to Pakistan. That’s where I’m from. And that’s probably what’s got us on the list, because we go frequently. Pakistan is another home for us.

That is why I believe that we need to #RedefineSecurity and #StopProfilingImmigrants.”