SAN FRANCISCO - August 31 - Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi blogger, activist and architect was prevented from boarding a JetBlue flight at JFK Airport while he was wearing a t-shirt that read, “We will not be silent” in English and Arabic. Jarrar was told that in the post-911 United States, “wearing a t-shirt with Arabic letters and coming to an airport is like visiting a bank with a t-shirt that reads, ‘I’m a robber.’”
“When I was stopped by four officers this month in JFK and asked to change my t-shirt because it had some Arabic script on it, ‘not in my America’ was the first thing that popped into my head. Not In My America. I know these games of oppression played by authoritarian regimes. I spent all my life living in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq, so I know what a dictatorship looks like,” said Jarrar. “Was I shocked because of this treatment? Yes, but not because it happened to me. I am used to such things happening to me. I was shocked because this happened to me in New York. I was intimidated and threatened in JFK because I am an Arab.”
The incident took place on Saturday, August 12th when Jarrar was scheduled to fly from New York to Oakland. He was told that he would not be allowed on his JetBlue flight unless he took off his t-shirt. He refused, but eventually agreed to wear a JetBlue t-shirt over the t-shirt bearing Arabic lettering. Jarrar has filed a complaint with the ACLU.
Jarrar immigrated to the United States from Iraq this year. He works as the Iraq Program Director at the San Francisco-based human rights group Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org). Jarrar was in Iraq during and after the 2003 invasion, and took a part in a number of humanitarian and political projects there including two first-hand experiences in establishing and leading volunteer motivated grassroots organizations and NGOs based in Iraq. He recently took part in an historic meeting in Jordan between US peace activists and Iraqi parliamentarians.
In Jordan this August, Jarrar and leading US peace activists met with officials of the Iraqi government, including official representatives of the Shiite coalition now holding power, the minority Sunni bloc, the anti-occupation Muslim Scholars Association , parliamentarians and torture victims from Abu Ghraib. The meeting, which was also attended by Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan and former California Senator Tom Hayden, resulted in an agreement by the Iraqis and Americans present to promote a specific timetable for American troop withdrawal combined with efforts to "fix the problems" of the occupation as the withdrawal proceeds.
For details on the peace delegation to Jordan, see “Iraq is Dying” by Tom Hayden, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060814/iraq_is_dying
While in Iraq, Jarrar was the country director of CIVIC Worldwide (Marla Ruzicka’s organization), the only door-to-door casualty survey in Iraq after the US invasion in 2003. He also established an NGO called "Emaar" that carried out work in Baghdad and nine cities of the south, coordinating with local authorities, community leaders and other NGOs.
Jarrar also maintains a popular web-log, http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com/ , that includes analysis and news about Iraq and the Middle East. His blog includes a proposal for an exit strategy from Iraq under the title "The Iraqi Roadmap".
ARTICLES ABOUT JARRAR’S INCIDENT AT JFK:
Iraqi Peace Activist Forced to Change T-Shirt Bearing Arabic Script Before Boarding Plane at JFK
Arabic T-shirt sparks airport row