May 14, 2008

Iranian American Student Sues Georgetown University for Ethnic Profiling

Washington, DC – Iranian American Georgetown University graduate student, Kambiz Fattahi (GRD ’08), filed suit against the university on April 29 in response to his forced removal from the university’s 2007 commencement ceremony.

Fattahi claimed his removal from the audience and subsequent detainment was the result of ethnic profiling. During the ceremony, DPS officers reportedly observed Fattahi glancing nervously around the audience and searching in his bag. He was removed from his seat by Sergeant Winfred Walton and Officer Randolph Christian of the Department of Public Safety, detained, and questioned.

Fattahi reported that he was targeted because of his Iranian ethnicity and that the DPS officers made derogatory comments about his Middle Eastern appearance while he was detained. According to Fattahi, after requesting identification and seeing Fattahi’s business card for the BBC Persian Service one officer stated, “So, you’re from Persia. Aren’t Babylon and the Tigris River in Persia?”

“I am still in shock at how ignorant, arrogant, and unprofessional the guards were…More shocking and even appalling is how the university has responded to my complaint,” Fattahi commented in an August 2007 issue of the Georgetown newspaper, The Hoya. In July 2007, an investigation by Georgetown’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) concluded that the DPS officers followed standard procedure and were not guilty of discriminatory behavior. Fattahi vowed to pursue legal action in response.

On April 25, the university offered a settlement to Fattahi’s legal team, which Fattahi rejected, calling it a “disappointing response” in an April 29 article in The Hoya. Fattahi filed suit against Georgetown, citing violation of his constitutional rights as a US citizen. Fattahi told NIAC that he has “gone forward with the lawsuit because the university has not been forthcoming. Georgetown has condoned both ethnic profiling and unprofessional behavior by the DPS.”

“I am also concerned that the IDEAA may be suppressing other similar complaints of discrimination or bias on campus,” Fattahi elaborated. By proceeding with the legal case, Fattahi hopes to force transparency and ensure a commitment by Georgetown to uphold its prohibition of racial and ethnic profiling on campus in the future.

Georgetown’s IDEAA could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Ten bias-related incidents were reported at Georgetown in fall 2007.




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