Iraqi Student kicked off a US flight for speaking Arabic

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UC Berkeley student who fled Iraq as a 12-year-old 'kicked off Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic'


  • Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, was flying from Los Angeles to Oakland
  • The student fled Iraq after diplomat father was killed by Saddam Hussein
  • He said he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic
  • Another passenger heard him on the phone and pointed him out to crew
  • Alleges he was humiliated in front of other travelers and probed by FBI

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Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, alleges he was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic



A U.C. Berkeley student who fled Iraq after his father was killed by Saddam Hussein's regime alleges he was booted off a flight for speaking Arabic.


Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, 26, was flying back to continue his studies in Oakland last Wednesday after attending a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council with Secretary-General of the United Nations Bank Ki-moon.Before the plane left the gate, he was kicked off the Southwest Airlines flight, the Daily Californian reported.


The U.C. Berkeley senior, who fled Iraq in 2002 after his diplomat father was killed and who lived in Jordan before being granted asylum in the United States, said he was on the phone with his uncle in Baghdad when another passenger was frightened by his language.


He said it was his use of the word 'inshallah,' which means 'God willing,' that caused his co-passenger to point him out to a crew member, who then threw him off the plane.


'At the end of my call I said, "Inshallah, I will call you," and he was like, "Call me when you get home," Makhzoomi said.

Makhzoomi said he believed the other passenger mistook the word 'inshallah' with the Arabic word for martyr, 'shahid.'


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In a statement, Southwest Airlines said it 'neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind'


After he was led off the plane, Makhzoomi said he was humiliated by airport security agents who searched his genital area in front of other travelers and asked him if he had a knife.

'That is when I couldn’t handle it and my eyes began to water,' he told the Californian.


'The way they searched me and the dogs, the officers, people were watching me and the humiliation made me so afraid because it brought all of these memories back to me. I escaped Iraq because of the war, because of Saddam and what he did to my father.'


Afterwards, he said he was questioned by FBI agents who quizzed him on his family and the phone call on the plane.



After he was let go, he learned that Southwest Airlines would not let him fly to Oakland.


In a statement to NBC Bay Area, Southwest Airlines said it 'wouldn't remove passengers from flights without a collaborative decision rooted in established procedures.'


'We aim to safely transport every Customer while maintaining the comfort of all. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.'


Makhzoomi, who is part of Model United Nations and the Berkeley Political Review, said he thought about suing but changed his mind.


'I don’t want money,' he said. 'I don’t care about that. All I want is an apology.'



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