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My Insights: On The Viral Post of Indonesian Woman Calling Off Discrimination In Rome Airport

So, recently I read the news about a viral post of an Indonesian woman who traveled to Rome and she posted something about calling off discrimination as the officer asked her to remove her hijab.

As creepy as it sounds, I checked on Aghnia Adzkia’s facebook post and watched the video uploaded to her page.

Although I cannot call myself an expert when it comes to travel, but I’ve got some insights in this case. Not only because I am a traveler myself, but also because I used to be a staff working at the airport. Also, it kinda helps as I was a flight attendant with a privilege of avoiding immigration queue whatsoever.

With me being a Muslim myself, I think I could understand from both parties. So please allow me to take some time to give you my two cents in this case. This is only my personal opinion, but I hope this can open up your mind when it comes to traveling as a passenger.

There’s a saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 

Funny how this phrase was something that I came up with when I saw the news. But then I know Aghnia’s concern as religion might be a sensitive issue for her. And supposedly with the officer asking her to remove her hijab while they passed the nuns for security check, she felt the act of injustice against her.

As a passenger, I used to have the same experience in Attaturk airport when I was catching a flight back home. I came to Turkey with a scholarship, and I had the same flight with some other Indonesian friends. I was the last one in the immigration line, and the next thing I knew, the immigration officer asked my ikamet (residence permit) when clearly I had none.

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I shared the same flight with 3 other girls who also got the same scholarship as I did. When Kiran was staying in Bursa for the summer, Thaul and Uny had become my roommates in the same period. Being a sticky rice Asian as we were, Thaul, Uny and I never really separated.

And when it comes to the scholarship, documents, and bureaucracy, I had done the same procedure they had. Rest assured, I was the first person who actually tried to find out how the bureaucracy worked in Turkey to ensure that we actually had the right procedure to stay legally in Turkey. I even became the first main of contact with the person in charge in the city council of Izmir when it came to the cl

I even became the first main of contact for the city council when it came to the bureaucracy requirements of other foreign students in our class. I was so sure that I had fulfilled all the requirements until the immigration officer told me to come with him at the airport when the 3 other girls were waiting for me not so far from the immigration booth.

The officer told me that I got a problem because I had no ikamet. The thing was that I already asked the person in the city council whether I needed the residence permit and he told me that it was only necessary for those who are planning to stay more than 3 months. I asked about residence permit as my friends in the other cities told me that they had to put a deposit of 50 TL for ikamet.

So when I came with the officer, I asked the officer why Thaul and Uny could get through when clearly they didn’t have ikamet either. I could manage to get the immigration after some debates here and there with the officers, but still, the thought of being the only one getting the problem in the immigration got me wondering why it didn’t happen to the others.

Until I started working for an airline that I had to deal with all passengers flying in both domestic and international flights. And I was taught about the necessity of us working in-line with CIQ (Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine).

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Half joking, my trainer told the rest of the class that we should think of CIQs as gods at the airport. He said, “You don’t question their regulation as they know what they’re doing. Just make sure that you assist them for the sake of safety and security for everyone at the airport.”

We were also taught to ensure that all documents needed are present before the passengers took off, especially for those in the international flight. And for those passengers wearing a burqa, we were told to have one of the female staff in charge around the boarding gate as the immigration might need us to assist them in checking their face. At the

The immigration officers at the airport that I worked at are all male officers, so the female airline staff came as handy every now and then.

Despite all the regulation, terms and conditions, as a staff I sometimes encountered some passengers who think as they frequently travel, they know everything about airlines and airport. They don’t.

Tell me about it, I had to argue with a passenger because of IDR 30,000 for airport tax (back when I worked at the airport, airport tax wasn’t included in the flight ticket). He called me names, and he threw the money in front of my face. Other times, I had to reject a child passenger whose passport got wet and her face on the front page wasn’t recognizable so I had to refer them to immigration about the issue. It sounds like a small issue, but trust me, more often than not there are people out there who

It sounds like a small issue, but trust me, more often than not there are people out there who actually sweat the small stuff.

Now back to Aghnia’s case.

I don’t know what happened there at the airport, neither I can place myself on Aghnia’s shoes.

But all I can say is that as a traveler when you get to the airport in a foreign country, you should follow their rules. Take a simple example, when you go to someone’s house, will you question the house owner if they ask you to take off your shoes in order to come in? As an Indonesian, I think Aghnia will understand this.

Second, about religion and discrimination. To be honest, today’s recent events don’t really help for Muslims in general, right? But then again, I think it is not necessary for Aghnia to play as a victim of discrimination when really the officer has just done that for random security check.

This is something we all need to understand. First, random security check DOES exist. Second, the recent terrorist attacks by some radical Muslim organization didn’t help to improve the situation. And airport often becomes the target for this terror. Look what happened in Brussel and Istanbul.

No one is really immune to the security check. What I understand from some passengers’ insights when it comes to flying, some of them are still stuck in the mindset of ‘customer is the king’.

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Unfortunately, flying is more complicated than just purchasing the flight ticket. It is beyond whether you could choose chicken or beef for your in-flight meal. Right after 9/11, safety and security have become the most vital thing in the training’s material for every job related to flying. From the aviation security, airline staff, CIQ, and cabin crew.

When I was flying as a flight attendant a few years ago, I often heard from my senior how things have changed after the tragedy of 9/11. Back then, flight attendants were all about service and safety during the flight and in case of emergency incidents. Nowadays, they have to also learn how to handle a terrorist attack on board.

This is a message not only for Aghnia, but for anyone reading this post.

Instead of being offended, it’s time for us to understand each other’s tasks when it comes to fly. As a security officer, it is their job to check on people to ensure their safety as passengers. As a passenger, you also have a right to be safe and if with the officer checking on you as per regulation could make you safe, please do cooperate.

For the sake of everyone, people… Please take some time to be humble enough to follow the procedures. Sure there is a misleading image about women in hijab or Muslim in general, and despite we are not a terrorist just because we’re Muslim, we sure have to accept the stigma no matter how much we hate it.

Sure there is a misleading image about women in hijab or Muslim in general, and despite we are not a terrorist just because we’re Muslim, we sure have to accept the stigma no matter how much we hate it. But the ‘what ifs’ can cause something worse than that.

For Aghnia, I disagree with the fact that you refused to follow the procedure based on the security officer’s suggestion. But then maybe there are some gestures and misunderstanding that happened in the day that happened.

I hope this can open anyone’s mind. Back at it again, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Trust me, the mantra works. Cheerio! 😉

-Marya The Beautraveler-

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