Shoshana Hebshi Detained, Strip-Searched in Ethnic Profiling Incident

An Ohio woman who was one of three people pulled off a Frontier Airlines flight after landing at Detroit Metro Airport on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is speaking out, blaming the entire situation on jittery passengers who profiled her based on her appearance.

Thirty-five-year-old Shoshana Hebshi, who describes herself as half-Arabic, half-Jewish with a dark complexion, boarded Frontier Flight 623 in California on Sunday, hoping to make it home in time for dinner with her 6-year-old twins.

Instead, Hebshi says she was handcuffed, strip-searched and interrogated for hours – all because of her Middle Eastern appearance.

Following the terrifying incident, Shoshana, also a freelance writer, took to her blog and described the ordeal in detail in a post titled, “Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit.”

To summarize her post, crew on board the plane reported two people were spending a substantial amount of time in the bathroom. Those two men, coincidentally of Indian descent, were apparently sitting next to Hebshi on the plane.

Once the plane landed, it was taken far from the gate and surrounded by law enforcement officers – who had been notified of “suspicious” behavior involving some of the passengers on board the flight.

The heavily armed officers then came aboard the plane, ran down the aisle, and stopped at Hebshi’s row. The cops then handcuffed her and the two Indian men – none of whom knew each other – and escorted them off the plane.

In the police car on the runway, she turned to her seatmate and asked whether he knew what was happening. He had no idea. To Shoshana, it was a clear case of racial profiling.

“I said, it’s because of what we look like. They’re doing this because of what we look like. And I couldn’t believe that I was being arrested and taken away.”

After she was fingerprinted, strip-searched, questioned and held in a cell, Hebshi was told she and the men were being released and that nothing suspicious was found on the plane.

According to Hebshi, Frontier Airlines did not get in touch with her or apologize. They did however, issue a statement saying:

“The primary responsibility of our flight crews … the pilots and flight attendants … is the safety of all passengers on board the aircraft at all times.”

The company went on to say that only the two men had been reported to authorities for suspicious activity and all other “actions taken by federal authorities after the report were their own and were made without any further involvement from Frontier or any company employee.”

In an interview with the AP, Hebshi said she had been overwhelmed by the response to her blog post, and that for the most part, people reacted with kindness and support. She liked the dialogue it started, even if she hated what happened to start it.

“It doesn’t make sense to operate in this way,” Hebshi told the AP. “It fuels violence and it fuels hatred… I can understand they were just doing their job. My beef is with these laws and regulations that are so hypersensitive… Even if you’re an innocent bystander, you have no rights.”

via Washington Post