After Shah Rukh Khan’s innumerable incidents of being ‘checked’ at airport security, there’s another high profile personality who faced the embarrassment recently: the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was flying to the US to visit his ailing sister when he was stopped by the security at the Washington airport and strip-searched.
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“Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kick the star out of stardom,” said SRK in an interview about his 2012 visit to Yale University.
It’s not just the US; this happens often to a lot of us at airports all over the world, especially if you are brown-skinned or have a Muslim name. Ahead, five women share their airport security experiences that make us think if it’s our name and colour, or their ‘code of conduct!’
1. Because Racism, What Else?
I belong to a Sikh family and the last time I was travelling, my uncle was asked to remove his turban at JFK by a security personnel. As a person who travels across the world twice a month, he was shocked at the request. He found the concept humiliating and he refused outright. He had already passed the security scan and there was no reason for this demand apart from blatant racism. After asking them to do a pat-down instead, he got out of the situation with an argument followed by a few racist remarks.
- Akanksha Bhatia, Lifestyle Writer, POPxo
2. Comfy Clothes Mean I’m A Hobo!
My friends and I were travelling to Spain for a bachelorette trip via Munich. I like to travel comfortably, so I was wearing a baggy t-shirt and track pants. As it was an overnight flight, I reached the airport half asleep. To my surprise, I was told to step aside for a litmus paper test, which is usually done to find out if you’ve consumed drugs or not. It was super embarrassing.
- Ragini Kapoor, Client Servicing Lead, POPxo
3. It’s Always The US Way
My sister lives in New York City, which is amazing because I get to visit her every year, but the only downside is that the security at JFK can be pretty damn intimidating. Maybe it’s because I’m a young girl travelling alone or my Indian passport, but I’ve always been questioned more harshly than other passengers at immigration. They badger me with random questions and once even started questioning me about what visa my sister has and whether she has the correct work permits since she has a job there. It was scary as I didn’t know the details of her visa. Also, I’ve been randomly picked for an extra security check by airport personnel for no fault of my own - not once, but twice while travelling, which can feel embarrassing and demeaning when every other passenger around you sails through security. I can’t help but feel a bit stressed every time I travel now.
- Priyanka Ghura, Assistant Editor, POPxo
4. Things Escalate So Fast!
My sister, enroute Australia via Singapore, had a sandwich at the Singapore airport and couldn’t find a dustbin so she carried the breadcrumb trash with her in her bag, until the dogs sniffed at the Melbourne airport. She ended up wasting a few hours at the security trying to explain that she wasn’t trying to bring outside food to the continent!
I found the security all across Europe very heightened, something I wasn't used to. But given the volatility of the situation of the past few years, it made sense. I was pulled over in Berlin for a proper scan, asked to take off my clothes and go through a machine scan. My bags were opened and brushed through as well. I never thought it had anything to do with my skin colour, or maybe I actively choose to believe that. To be honest, if this is what it takes to keep our environment safe, then it's a small price to pay.
- Jigyasa Rathour, Delivery Manager, Suncorp Group
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