Faiza protest to US Embassy in Singapore: Visa issue

On 18 August, I applied for a visa to visit the United States aat the American Embassy in Singapore. I was planning to go to America accompanying my husband who was to give some talks and lectures at about 9 American universities. I was also intending to meet and network with women human rights activists as well as theatre people. However, very rudely and with showing discrimination and prejudice, they rejected my visa, clearly based on “profiling”. This was unacceptable behavior. Discrimination and prejudice are two things which should not be tolerated.

There has been a lot of analysis of what I have experienced. Some have said that perhaps the reason they have done this is my Arabic name. Others have said that it because I come from a country that America feels they must keep an eye upon: Indonesia.

Because I am from a poor country, so they think that I am a potential illegal worker in the United States. (Oh, my dear American government, I love my country and I love my people with all my spirit. It is better I work in my own country, however small my contribution. I am seeking only to gain some experiences of America, its beauty and its ugliness too …)

I know the discrimination is not against me personally – they did not even make any attempt to check who I was or what my purpose in visiting America was. I was discriminated against as an example of other people like me. They insult millions of us.

Whatever the reason rejecting issuing a visa based on prejudice and suspicion is very hurtful. They refused even to look at any on my documentation. Do not I have the right to travel and that I had clear and official letters explaining the purpose of my travel.

So I have sent off a letter of protest. So has my husband, Max. he has cancelled his visit to the United States. He too cannot accept this discrimination against his wife. So we sent letters of protest to the American Ambassador in Singapore. And have informed the universities in the United States.

Apart from myself and Max, professors from the universities that invited Max have also protested and raised their objections.

Who knows whether these letters will be elicit a response or just be ignored. But for us the important thing is to reject this kind of treatment. It is a matter of principle. Whether the protests succeed or not is a secondary issue at this moment. We know that the American government often refuses to listen to voices of protest. Look at the experience of the recent protests against the war in Iraq. In this case, we make it clear that the error is not with us.

It is a matter of principle to reject this kind of prejudice and to refuse to accommodate to this kind of arrogance.

Below are our letters. Happy reading:

I. FAIZA’S LETTER PROTESTSingapore,

20 August 2008

To:

Her Excellency
Patricia L. Herbold
Ambassador for the United States of America,
Republic of Singapore

FAX: (65) 6476-9340

RE: Protest regarding treatment not in accord with website information and of a tendency towards discrimination

Dear Ambassador,

I would like to introduce myself: Siti Faizah Hidayati (pen name as Faiza Mardzoeki). I was an applicant for a non immigrant visa at the United States Embassy in Singapore on 18 August, with BARCODE Number G1KZ4WLAMA. I am an Indonesian citizen with Australian Permanent Residence and a spouse visa for residency in Singapore. I am living with my husband, Maxwell Ronald Lane, who is working here in Singapore as a Visiting fellow at the National University of Singapore.

I was applying for a visa so as to be able to accompany my husband to the United States. He was to present some lectures and papers at several US universities as well as do some research in US libraries. While accompanying my husband, I was intending to be a tourist while also networking with people of similar interests, namely women’s rights and theatre. All costs related to the trip were being borne by my husband, which I stated clearly in my application form.

However, I greatly resent and was disappointed by the way I was treated by you, namely refusing a visa to me clearly based on “profiling”. And in doing this you clearly violated your own policies as set on your website that you looked at cases on an individual basis, stating “No one person’s situation is exactly like anyone else’s” and while indicating that no specific set of documents could be indicated, the website made various recommendations about documentations, a clear indication that an applicant should have some..

However, in the “interview” of no more than three (3) minutes, the officer refused to examine any of the documents that I had brought with me, which included a statement from my husband, his passport, his pay slips, our credit card statement, and supporting letters from his employer and inviting organizations and universities in the United States.
I stated on my application form that my trip was being financially supported by my husband, which I reaffirmed in the interview. On your website you state: “Spouses and Minors may submit the documents of their spouse or parent; however, they should provide proof of the relationship by including a marriage or birth certificate.” However, your officer refused to even look at any of these documents.

After three minutes, with no reference to any of the supporting documents I had prepared, the officer was somehow able to determine that I had not proven that I have “ the ties that will compel her to return to Singapore after her travel to the United States.” You make this determination having claimed that “No one person’s situation is exactly like anyone else’s” and then refuse to look at the documentation you urge people to bring. He refused to look at any documentation.

This was an act of extreme impoliteness, full of prejudice and violating the ethics that you have proclaimed. And I protest this treatment for which I also paid $180.40. I feel humiliated at this prejudice filled treatment that I have experienced.

Further, in making a determination that I had no ties that would bring me back to Singapore, you utterly negate and humiliate my relationship with my husband who now lives in Singapore. How was your officer able to determine that I no longer wanted to live with my husband? Meanwhile why it is those same criteria is not applied to my husband? He can leave Singapore and enter the United States at will, without any suspicion that he will not return to Singapore, but I cannot.

With this letter I suggest that you review your regulations and policies. Cooperation based on mutual respect, without prejudice and the application of equality between men and women (husbands and wives) and brotherhood/sisterhood between peoples/nations are values of civilization that your country so often proclaims as its values.

Thank you for your attention

Yours faithfully,
Siti Faizah Hidayati (Faiza Mardzoeki)
senjajingga@gmail.com
www.myspace.com/faizamardzoeki.
Mobile: 90863950

CC to:

Consular Section
US Embassy Singapore
Tel: +65-64769100
Fax: +65-64769232
http://singapore.usembassy.gov

II. MAX’S LETTER PROTEST

Singapore,
18 August, 2008

Her Excellency
Patricia L. Herbold
Ambassador for the United States of America,
Republic of Singapore

FAX: (65) 6476-9340

Visit to universities in the United States – CANCELLATION and PROTEST

Dear Ambassador,

This October I am scheduled to visit the United States and speak at several universities on Indonesian society, politics and literature. I am scheduled to speak at:

Fordham Jesuit University, New York
City University of New York
Northwestern University, Chicago
University of Wisconsin, Madison
University of Michigan, Ann Abor
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Riverside
University of Washington, Seattle
University of North California

I have almost 40 years of academic, writing and translation experience in Indonesian studies, including as translator of many of the novels of Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

I am now writing to all those universities to inform them that I have to cancel these lectures and all consultations and dialogues with colleagues in the United States because of the inability of the United States government to treat a husband and wife equally.

Today on August 18, my wife, Siti Faizah Hidayati (pen-name Faiza Mardzoeki) applied for a non-immigrant visa to the U.S. so as to be able to accompany me to the US (Appointment number G1KZ4WLAMA). She herself planned to see the sights as well as try to meet people in the US active in her field – women’s rights and the theatre. She is a well known playwright and theatre producer in Indonesia. She is an Indonesian citizen, with permanent resident status in Australia and a spouse residency visa here in Singapore.

Her visa was rejected without the interviewing officer bothering even to examine the documents she had brought with her. The only explanation was that she “did not qualify” for a visa because she had not been resident in Singapore for a long enough period. She has moved here to Singapore with me when I recently took up a position as Visiting Fellow in the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore.

So I can visit the United States, despite also only having been resident in Singapore for two months, while my wife has been refused entry.

I can only presume that this is an act of discrimination based on the fact that my wife is from a country with low per capita income statistics.

Given that the United States government is unable to treat myself and my wife equally, I am writing to all the universities where I am scheduled to speak and other institutions where I was scheduled to meet people to inform them of this discrimination and humiliation and to cancel all appointments.

Yours faithfully,

Max Lane
Visiting Fellow,
Department of Malay Studies,
National University of Singapore,
Tel: 65164199
Mobile: 98111808
Email: mlsmrl@nus.edu.sg