Aghnia Adzkia, an Indonesian citizen who wears the hijab, recently took to social media to share her anger over her experience trying to fly out of Rome’s Ciampino Airport to London recently.
As she was passing through a security checkpoint, officers asked her to remove her hijab, apparently in accordance with security protocol. Thinking that she was being the target of discrimination, Aghnia refused to take off her hijab on principle.
Aghnia filmed part of her exchange with the officers, in which she repeatedly demanded to see the law stating that the hijab must be removed at an airport security check, while the officers were adamant that they wouldn’t let her pass unless she followed their rules.
— Aghnia Adzkia (@aghniaadzkia) April 12, 2017
She also posted the video, and an extensive write up of her side of the story, in a Facebook post that went viral but which she just took down today (Update 14/4: Aghnia made her original Facebook post public again, you can see it here). Here’s a screenshot:
Some of the highlights from her post include:
“Why should I take off my hijab?” I asked. They replied it was for the security reasons. However, I wasn’t prepared to trust them unless they could cite me a law or provide me with a legal document that saying they were authorised to have to check what is underneath of my hijab. To make it clear, they asked me to follow one lady to a private room to checking my hijab. But for me, this is not just about whether I want to show my head/hair or not (albeit in front of a lady). This is beyond that: it is a matter of human dignity and rights. For what reason were they asked me to take off my hijab?
A male security officer dragged me out of the security checking area in an indecent way (he took my bag without asking my permission and shouted at me to be quiet). I tried to negotiate again with them about the legality of the check but the lady just shouted to me, “I’ve shown you, if you do not know Italian language…You can’t touch me, You are not safe. You could hide something in your hair. If you don’t take it off, we do not know if there’s something inside, okay? You are not safe for us.”
Later in the evening, I booked a ticket to London flying from Fiumicino airport. During the security check the security officials also insisted I take off my hijab. This time I agreed because I wanted to prove to them that I have nothing to hide and that I am not a terrorist. In the meantime, I saw two nuns wearing headscarves, but they weren’t asked to take them off. Is this what you call fair treatment and respect? Where are my human rights?
While Aghnia shared her story to raise awareness that not all Muslims are terrorists, an official at the Indonesian Embassy (KBRI) in Rome argued that, when in Rome, Aghnia should have complied with the security officers’ wishes.
“The numerous times I’ve flown out of Rome’s airport, I also experienced the same kind of security check… I also happen to wear a hijab. The same applies to others who wear the hijab at Rome KBRI,” Aisyah Allamanda, an official at Rome KBRI’s Information, Social and Cultural Affairs Department, wrote in a statement as picked up by Kumparan today.
Aisyah went on to urge travelers to observe security measures wherever they travel, as security officers do what they have to do in order to protect everyone. In addition, as in the case with Rome’s Ciampino Airport, Aisyah believes the hijab removal requirement is done in a non-discriminatory manner.
“Female Muslims believe that they can’t take off their headscarves in public [particularly in front of men], so they are provided a private room for a female officer to carry out the check,” she wrote.
“If we refuse (to remove the hijab), I can understand if the security officer acts aggressively towards us.”
Commenters on Aghnia’s original post were divided on whether or not her being asked to remove her hijab is an example of discrimination and Islamophobia. Those who sided with Aghnia cited her claim that two nuns weren’t asked to remove their headscarves as definite proof of discrimination, while others say that she should have complied with the officers regardless, especially since it seems they asked her to remove her hijab politely at the start.