An attorney for the woman dragged off a Southwest Airlines flight by police last week said she is a victim of sexism, racial profiling, and police brutality.
In a statement Wednesday, the attorney said the incident was especially distressing for his client, Anila Daulatzai, because she is pregnant with her first child. The incident occurred, he said, after she asked to be moved away from the dogs because of her allergies, which are not life-threatening. Daulatzai now faces criminal charges, the lawyer said. Southwest Airlines said the incident, which took place Sept. 26 on Flight 1525 from Baltimore to Los Angeles, started when Daulatzai told the flight crew that she had a “life-threatening pet allergy.”
According to the airline, Daulatzai brought this to their attention because there was an emotional-support dog and a pet on the flight. The airline said that for Daulatzai to remain on the flight, she would need to show a medical certificate.
“Our policy states that a Customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal onboard,” a Southwest representative told Business Insider in a statement last week. “Our Flight Crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the Customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved,” the airline said.
Daulatzai was then forcibly removed from the plane by police officers from the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police. The incident was filmed by a fellow passenger and shared online.
The attorney, a civil rights lawyer named Arjun S. Sethi, said in an emailed statement that Southwest’s accounting of how events transpired is not accurate and that Daulatzai was targeted because she “is a woman, a person of color, and a Muslim.” The statement is also posted on the website of Hall & Sethi, a Virginia-based law firm. Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Daulatzai’s account of the incident.
According to Sethi, Daulatzai told Southwest Airlines employees she had an allergy to dogs and that together they decided she should move to the back of the plane, far away from the animals.
“Contrary to the Southwest statement and various media reports, Professor Daulatzai never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane, did not request an EpiPen, nor did she ever claim that her allergies were life-threatening,” Sethi said in the statement.
Sethi said after she took her seat in the back, she was approached by Southwest employees who asked her questions. He said she answered all questions, but was never asked for a medical certification.
“Despite trying to convince the crew that she would be completely fine on the plane, she was asked by another Southwest representative to leave the plane. Shortly thereafter the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled her from her seat by her belt loop, dragged her through the aisle exposed with torn pants, and humiliated her for the world to see in a now viral video,” Sethi said in the statement.
“The Maryland Transportation Authority Police later disparaged her, accused her of lying about her pregnancy, and made racist remarks about immigrants. They also handed her a list of criminal charges, which have no merit,” he said.
You can read the full statement from Daulatzai’s lawyer below:
Anila Daulatzai was violently removed from a Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, September 26 at Thurgood Marshall Airport in Baltimore, Maryland. She survived sexism, racial profiling, and police brutality that fateful day. Her mistreatment was particularly distressing because she is presently pregnant with her first child.
Professor Daulatzai’s story has gone untold. She discussed her non-life threatening allergies to dogs with Southwest representatives upon entering the aircraft, and together they decided that she could manage by sitting away from the dogs towards the rear of the plane. Southwest allows for passengers to choose their own seats, and Professor Daulatzai found a seat comfortably distant from the animals. Contrary to the Southwest statement and various media reports, Professor Daulatzai never asked for the dogs to be removed from the plane, did not request an EpiPen, nor did she ever claim that her allergies were life-threatening.
Professor Daulatzai buckled her seat belt, turned on the overhead light, and started grading student papers. She was then approached by a series of Southwest representatives, and answered every question asked of her. She was never asked for medical certification, nor would she have needed to carry that, because her allergies are not life threatening. Despite trying to convince the crew that she would be completely fine on the plane, she was asked by another Southwest representative to leave the plane. Shortly thereafter the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled her from her seat by her belt loop, dragged her through the aisle exposed with torn pants, and humiliated her for the world to see in a now viral video. The Maryland Transportation Authority Police later disparaged her, accused her of lying about her pregnancy, and made racist remarks about immigrants. They also handed her a list of criminal charges, which have no merit.
Professor Daulatzai suffered physical injuries and mental trauma, required emergency care at a local hospital, including for her pregnancy, and is under continuing medical care. Professor Daulatzai has also received hate mail, including racist messages and threats of further violence. There was an attempted break in into her home. She has since left her home, fearing for her safety.
Anila Daulatzai, who previously taught at Brown University, Harvard Divinity School as well as internationally, presently holds a faculty appointment at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is a Southwest frequent flier and is currently traveling to California weekly to take care of her hospitalized father. Her removal from the flight had nothing to do with allergies or safety concerns. Professor Daulatzai was profiled, abused, interrogated, detained, and subjected to false reporting and the trauma of racist, vitriolic public shaming precisely because she is a woman, a person of color, and a Muslim. This endangered the physical and emotional well-being of a pregnant woman, researcher, and teacher.
Professor Daulatzai and her family express gratitude to everyone who suspended judgment about what happened until hearing her account of the events that unfolded that evening.