September 29, 2022

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today welcomed the FBI investigation into an alleged assault targeting a Bay Area woman by a Southwest Airlines passenger. Saarah Sareshwala, an Indian American software engineer, was returning from a conference from Orlando to Phoenix Saturday morning, when the ordeal unfolded.


Sareshwala was resting her head on a tray table in front of her when her sleep was interrupted by a seemingly disgruntled passenger. The passenger in the seat in front of her allegedly pushed his seat back in an attempt to hurt her.

Sareshwala said she initially thought it was an accident or that she had bumped into the man’s chair while sleeping. Nevertheless, she went to the bathroom to check if she had any injuries.

While in the restroom, Saarah’s seatmates, a mother and daughter, tried to confront the man. Sareshwala said the man allegedly told the duo to “f**k off” and that “the f**king bitch got what was coming for her.” Sareshwala also alleges that the man told a woman sitting next to him that he would continue with his behavior in an attempt to spill Saarah’s drink.

Sareshwala’s husband wrote that flight attendants did very little to intervene in the matter, only offering to change Saarah’s seat and not once confronting the alleged perpetrator.

He said it was only after one of Saarah’s seatmates told a flight attendant that an assault had occurred did they offer to call the police.

“We commend the two witnesses who came to Saarah’s aid by confronting the alleged attacker and alerting the flight crew about the assault,” said CAIR-SFBA’s Civil Rights Attorney Jeffrey Wang.

“Throughout the rest of the flight, this man kept spewing racial slurs and misogynistic venom at Saarah. He kept pushing his seat back in an attempt to hurt Saarah,” Sareshwala said in a tweet.

“We condemn the heinous display of bigotry, and we are pleased that the FBI is investigating this alleged assault,” said Wang. “We urge the Department of Justice to prosecute this attack as a hate crime.”