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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-08-02-2008-00.htm

Press Release: 08th Feb 2008, Friday, 27th Maagh (Samvat 539 Nanakshahi )

Community Alert

Join Our Initiative to Protect Your Rights

Are You Facing Religious Discrimination Involving ID Photos?

Seattle, WA, USA - Imagine attempting to obtain or renew your driver’s license and being asked to remove or lift your turban to expose your hairline. You refuse, stating, “This is my everyday appearance.” Then the licensing official tells you that you cannot obtain a license, or the licensing agency prints “Not Valid for Identification” on the license you receive.

This is what happened to a Sikh gentleman of Seattle, Washington when he was trying to renew his nearly expired driver's license. When taking a new photograph for the license, he was asked to either remove or lift his turban so that his hairline and ears were visible. When the Sikh gentleman inquired as to why he was being required to do so, the Department of Licensing official stated that Washington law requires a person to show his hairline and ears for photograph identification. Despite the explanation that the turban was part of his everyday appearance, officials insisted that he lift his turban, a suggestion with which he refused to comply. In return, the Department of Licensing issued him a driver's license displaying the statement "Not Valid for Identification."

- If a licensing official tells you to take off or lift your turban for a photo id, you have the right to say no.

- Tell the licensing official that you always wear your turban, it is a religious requirement, and that it is part of your everyday appearance.

- If the licensing official states that you cannot obtain a license without removing your turban, or prints “not valid for identification on the license,” write down the details of the incident (date, location, what happened), official’s information (name, id number, and phone), and ask for a copy of the specific guidelines the official is following.

- Contact UNITED SIKHS immediately to report your incident, by clicking here or by telephone at 1-888-243-1690.

Many states are currently revisiting their identification procedures as the federal government has recently issued Real ID guidelines to which the state-issued identification must comply. The Real ID guidelines state that a digital photograph is required and that the photograph should conform to specific standards for biometric identification. According to Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney for UNITED SIKHS, “The standards for identification are clear that as long as scarves or headdresses do not obscure facial features or generate shadows, they are not problematic for biometric identification. Turbans do not obscure facial features or generate shadows on the face of an individual, but various states are using the guideline revision process as an excuse to discriminate against headdresses and scarves.”

Internationally recognized identification procedures in almost every country, including passports of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada, among others, do not discriminate against religious head coverings, as the top of one’s head is not used for the biometric identification process. UNITED SIKHS is seeking to ensure equality of treatment for all Sikhs worldwide, and is working particularly at the state and federal level in the United States to ensure that Sikhs receive justice.

Act now by supporting UNITED SIKHS’ campaign to protect your rights against religious discrimination. Report your experiences, positive or negative, when applying for identification documents, so that we are able to present a complete picture of discriminatory practices against turbaned Sikhs to the appropriate authorities, at http://unitedsikhs.org/photoidreport/ or by telephone at 1-888-243-1690.

If you are asked to remove your turban, do not comply. Contact UNITED SIKHS immediately so that we may ensure your rights are protected!

You may read a previous report on UNITED SIKHS’ initiatives for the right to turban at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-11-06-2007-00.htm.

Issued by

Baljit Kaur
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)
Email: law@unitedsikhs.org
1 646 315 3909

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