ROTC student with Arabic name detained by Air Force recruiters

Thursday April 18, 2002

LOS ANGELES — A 17-year-old Air Force ROTC student with an Arabic name has received an apology from the military after allegedly being handcuffed and interrogated by recruiters on campus. 

KCAL-TV reported Wednesday night that Hassan Ali Bahar, a student at George Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, was detained by recruiters visiting the campus. 

He told the television station that flight simulators were brought to the school Friday and he wrote the words “Hassan Ali Bahar can’t be stopped” while he and another cadet were playing with the equipment. 

Two recruiters ordered him to put his hands behind his back, handcuffed him and took him outside for questioning, Hassan said, adding the recruiters told him what he wrote was like saying, “Osama bin Laden can’t be stopped.” 

Hassan said another cadet wrote the same words and he believes the recruiters singled him out because of his Arabic name. 

The Air Force in a statement said that it was aware of the incident and it was under investigation. 

KCAL-TV reported that the Air Force sent a representative to apologize to Hassan. The station also reported that the school has banned the Air Force from campus. 

“I was scared, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what anybody could do about it, what anybody could say,” said Hassan, a cadet captain who has been involved with ROTC since ninth grade. 

His mother, Tasha Holt, of Inglewood, was angered by her son’s treatment. 

“I feel like he was discriminated against and his civil rights were violated because of his name,” Holt said. “You can look at him and can tell he is African-American. He’s not of Arab descent or anything like that, I chose to give him an Arabic name because all of my children have Arabic names.”