26-year-old Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was on the phone with his uncle, telling him about a conference he’d attended in L.A.
According to SF Gate, a female passenger sitting near Makzhoomi looked at him and left her seat, telling an airplane employee she overheard him making “potentially threatening comments,” according to a statement from the airline.
A short time later, Makhzoomi was escorted him off the plane, where he was met by an Arabic-speaking employee who asked him, “Why were you speaking Arabic in the plane?” Makzoomi told the Times he spoke to him “like I was an animal,” and told the employee, “‘This is what Islamophobia got this country into,’ and that made him so angry. That is when he told me I could not go back on the plane.”
“I had an emotional breakdown and cried a little bit,” Makhzoomi told SF Gate. “I was so afraid. I was so scared.”
Makhzoomi was “searched in front of a crowd of onlookers while half a dozen police officers, including one with a dog, stood watch” before he was questioned by FBI agents, who asked about his family; he lives with his mother and brother in Oakland, while his father, a former Iraqi diplomat, was thrown in prison by Saddam Hussein, and later killed by his regine. Makhzoomi said his family came to the U.S in 2010.
Hours later, Makhzoomi was allowed to leave the terminal, and his ticket was refunded by Southwest. He had to purchase another ticket from a different airline, and got back to Oakland nine hours later than he intended to.