Exterior of Doncaster Airport

British Woman Interrogated at Airport for Reading Syrian Art Book

Thomson Airways cabin crew reported Faizah Shaheen to authorities in 2016 on her way to her honeymoon in Turkey for reading ‘Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline,’ a book that compiles poetry, stories, photography, and cartoons from Syria.


The cover of Syria Speaks

Image courtesy of Amazon


Two weeks later, Shaheen returned to the UK where she was promptly stopped by police and interrogated. The police asked about the book, Shaheen’s job, and how many languages she spoke. Regarding the interrogation, Shaheen said, “I felt upset and distressed, followed by anger. I struggled to accept that I was being singled out for reading a book on art and culture.”


Picture of Faizah Shaheen

Photo of Faizah Shaheen, via BBC


Despite Shaheen’s legal team requesting an apology from Thomson, they haven’t heard much. Thomson hasn’t been totally quiet on the matter, though. In a statement, they said:

“We’re really sorry if Ms. Shaheen remains unhappy with how she feels she was treated. We wrote to her to explain that our crew undergo general safety and security awareness training on a regular basis. As part of this they are encouraged to be vigilant and share any information or questions with the relevant authorities, who would then act as appropriate.”


The interrogators might have been surprised to learn part of Shaheen, who works in the field of mental health, studies the radicalization of young people by religious groups.


If policing what their passengers read is being “vigilant,” then libraries might want to watch their backs.


Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia