It is a pity
Iranians detained at San Francisco airport
August 9, 2006
Dear Friends, I received this email from a friend of friend. She was detained in San Francisco airport while on her way to the Global Gathering of Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA) in Santa Clara, California, a few days ago. She wrote this letter to Dr. Hojabri, the president of SUTA. I deleted her name just in case. It is horrible! I am glad that I did not even think of going! Sincerely, Majid
Dear Dr. Hojabri,
I am one of the deported ones from SF airport. I am sending you this letter to explain what happened in 24 hours of our stay in US. I wish SUTA and Iranian Community in US do something that the others can hear our voice.
Eight of the graduates of SUT [Sharif University of Tehchnology] and their spouses and I (6 men and 3 women) were traveling by LH454 line on 3rd of Aug which reached there at noon.
At the first of our entrances two officers checked the passports of all the passengers, they sent me to the other one who controlled my visa and checked my name by a list. He told me to stay there. Other Iranian came one by one and all of us gathered together.
At the end four officers companied us to the visa control station. We passed the lines and four stations controlled our documents as fast as possible. They told us to go to the immigration office.
When we gathered again, 5-6 officer stood around us and one of them started to talk. At first, he checked if everybody can understand English and if everybody is there because of the SUTA Reunion.
Then he explained that, as same as the ones who had arrived last night, without any known especial reason for them, all of our visas are cancelled and we should go back to Iran as soon as possible. He told us each of us should do some Q&A by different officers and meanwhile they would find seats for us. He said "I am so sorry but it is not under our control".
They took the tags of our luggage and each of us was called by one officer. In my case, the officer asked me some general questions about my date of birth, education, my job, my parents, citizenship, SUTA, etc. He also asked me if I have any fear from going back to Iran. Then he explained that I have two choices of application: withdraw or being deported. I choose the first one.
They took my finger prints and three different pictures. Then he asked me if I want to call Iranian embassy. At first I told him we don't have one but then I asked him to call Algeria embassy where is the safeguarding center of the interest of Iran ("Daftar e hafez e manaf e Iran"). After 10 min, he told me his supervisor didn't let him to call there.
Then we gathered altogether again. Around 5:30, when they became sure that there is no possibility to send us home in the same day my officer called me to take my watch, money and other valuable things. When I asked why, he explained that it is not good that we stay there all the night and they would send us to some place under the custody of Immigration Office where there are beds to sleep. The other one added that I should give them my ring and necklace too.
I asked if I can bring my hand bag. He said no. I asked about a book and my ipod. His answer was no again. I asked if you are taking us to the jail. He said no but because of your own security it is better to leave your valuable thing here. Then I asked them if it is possible to call one of my friends. They let me to call her only for less than one minute. I asked her to inform my family about my situation. In some cases, they asked the others to speak in English or use the speaker.
The procedure was similar for the other ones. Till someone told them that we are hungry and thirsty. They told us it is possible that we can write our orders and give them money to buy some food. We did the same. In this time, two other graduates of SUT traveling by United Airline came there. They were so lucky to find seats in the next flight and leave there soon. The time was passing and no one gave us any more explanation. As we were so tired, around 8 p.m. we slept on the seats. It was so cold and inconvenient.
At 9 p.m. that office was closing and they told us we should be moved to the other place inside of the airport. Two officers took us to another Immigration office in another side of the airport. There, we met another graduates of SUT, a woman who was so frighten and unconscious. She had traveled by KLM airline.
Around 10:30 two polices with lots of handcuffs and chains came there. The supervisor of that office explained for us that "The only available place for you to stay at night is San Jose Jail. You should go there and obey its entire rules. There is no other choice."
One of the new come officers called me for the safety inspection (it was as same as the inspection of the criminals in the western films). Then she fastened my hand by handcuffs and asked her colleague about fastening my legs by chain. He said that it was not necessary. Then this procedure was repeated for all of the men. They opened my handcuffs but took the men by them. Then another police came and did the security inspection for all of the women. That time, we were four.
At midnight, they took us to the special vehicles for the transportation of criminals to the jails with different barriers and metallic doors. We reached to the San Jose Jail. At first, we passed the metal detectors and filled a form about height, weight and our clothes and another form about the controlling of the phone calls.
Then the nursery called my name and asked some question about my health situation and took my blood pressure. It was a waiting room that other prisoners chained to the seats were waiting for the other steps. They sent me to the other officer. She took another picture of me and printed my finger print, palm print, etc and sent me to a cell. It was a 2x3 room. At the end of it, behind a short wall there was a toilet and a washbasin. There were two benches and on one of them a black woman were slept.
After 2-3 min, a white addicted woman came in. She was in a bad mood. She cried; hit her head to the wall, used the phone and screamed. After more 2-3 minutes other Iranians came one by one. Two more foreigners were added too. It was really a bad situation. We tried to release our stress and talked a little. At 2:15 a.m. they called us one by one and attached some identity bracelet to our hands. Those showed our picture, name, one I.D. number and a barcode.
At 3 a.m. two non-uniformed officers called us again and asked us some questions to define our cells. They asked about our orient, membership in gangs, if we had tried to suicide, etc. The one, who talked to me, said it is apparent that you should not be here and we try to send four of you to the same cell.
At 4 a.m., they called name of different prisoners, asked us to stay toward the wall and chained hands of each two people together. We told them that we should be picked up by immigrant officers in the morning and where are you taking us. The officer who was the driver too told us that we were going to the "Santa Clara County- Department of Correction" and tomorrow we should go to the court.
We stayed in a big entrance lobby. At the right hand, there were different stations for the officers. At the front, it was the dressing room containing the prison clothes, blankets and packages of tooth brush, spoon, etc. Some people with the dress of Santa Clara prison came there. Some one with chained hands and foots and some people with ordinary clothes were added.
When we reached there, it was so cold and dark. We didn't know what's going on. All of us were in a bad mode and frightened. We set there till around 6 a.m. They called some people who came there with us and gave them the clothes and necessary stuffs and took them some where else. They also changed the dress of some of the other and chained their foot and kept them there.
After a long time, they called us to sign the release papers and then we became more relax that we were going out of that prison. Around 6:45 a special car van came and two officers came in. They started with the prisoners and fastened their hands to theirs waist by chain and handcuff. Then they called us and did the same to us.
They took us to the vehicle. We drove around 15 min and enter a dark, tightened tunnel. They parked and the officers went out. When we asked other ones, they told us we were there to pick up the men. After 30 min, the men in our group and some other ones with the same situation, i.e. hands chained to waist, came in.
We drove a long way to reach the airport. We didn't see any special sign but we could hear the noise of airplanes. We stayed in the car, under the hot sunshine for 30 minutes till two officers from the immigrant section came. They opened our hands and took us to the same office that we were there yesterday. As we couldn't even drink water, we were not fine and they brought us tea. They gave us all of our personal stuff instead of our tickets and passports.
Near 11 a.m. we gave them some money and asked them to buy us some meal. Around 12, near the landing of Lufthansa plane which contained around 15 graduates of SUT, they took us and our stuffs out of the office harshly to make it impossible for us to meet them and let them know what's going on. We were in an isolated lounge for one hour and then we went to check in the plane. It is worthy to mention that my return flight was from NY and I paid for the difference of the flight from SF!!!
When we were waiting, 6 lucky people from that flight came and could return with us. I should mention that the Lufthansa personnel were so kind to us and helped us to recover as soon as possible. Now, I am safe in my house and in my country. It is a pity that it could be a memorable and joyful trip for all of us but now it is a nightmare that we want to forget it as soon as possible. I am so thankful because of your kind helps and concerns. I wish I can meet you somewhere else in this big world. Comment