Michigan, USA - “I guess this whole situation is like the Rosa Parks for Chaldeans. One Chaldean man stands up against a big bus company who refuses to treat him fairly,” e-mails Jennifer Sitto.
Back in early January of 2008, www.CHALDEAN.org last reported on the ongoing harassment, abuse, and discrimination suffered by Mazyn Barash at the hands of SMART employees and management for being Chaldean. The article titled, “And Justice for All - Mazyn Barash Fights Back Discrimination and Harassment by SMART Bus Employees.
For months the Michigan civil rights commission held preliminary investigations to determine the nature of the abuse and has concluded that SMART did in fact discriminate, harass, and abuse Mr. Barash. Michigan’s civil rights commission has now filed formal charges against SMART.
For the Barash family, the harassment is far from over. Friends of Mazyn at SMART have also become the target of a vindictive management who has already fired those who defended Mazyn while he was being harassed and threatened.
Chaldeans and other Semitic and Middle Eastern groups are paying close attention to the ongoing hearing where Barash will testify. The Barash family released a press announcement asking groups to support Mazyn during this ordeal and learn first-hand the persecution he has faced at the hands of SMART. Chaldeans are invited to the hearing, which takes place in downtown Detroit, this Monday, September 22, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the morning.
The hearing is being held at the Cadillac Place, 3054 West Grand Boulevard, Suite 3-600,
Detroit, MI 48202, Phone: (313) 456-3700, Fax: (313) 456-3701, WATS: (800) 482-3604
As promised, we update readers with our ongoing investigation. Efforts to get specific information from SMART were directed to their director of communication and external affairs, Beth Dryden who commented in an e-mail that they could not discuss an ongoing case. www.CHALDEAN.org reporters interviewed, researched, and pulled public filings of the case without the help of SMART. However, Dryden did share how proud they are of working with Arabs and have hired a few for a project.
The attacks against Mazyn Barash began shortly after September 11, 2001. Barash a bus mechanic for SMART noticed a cut out from a newspaper of a picture of the terrorist (Muhammad Atta) stapled to his time card. After a month of harassment a memo was posted by SMART Superintendent Noaker that ethnic “Jokes” would not be tolerated. However, no investigation was ever conducted.
Things were quite for a few months until the New Year. Mazyn started getting phone calls from internal lines of SMART. The phone calls were of derogatory nature with voices of an Arab sounding man. Mazyn complained and the manager of the phone system, Steve Fern traced the call to a SMART terminal located in Inkster MI. After further investigation it was revealed that a worker from Wayne had been left in an office at the exact time the call was placed. Again, no other investigation or follow up occurred.
In early March, Mazyn received a threatening letter generated generically by a computer with derogatory slurs and stating he was going to get “HIT.”
“Mazyn was very scared,” says Annette Barash. “He went to alert others of the threatening letter he received. When the new Superintendent Keith Taylor saw Mazyn showing the letter to others, he immediately came to Mazyn to question him on why he was talking to people. Earlier in the day the new Superintendent had sent out a memo with the subject ‘for your eyes only’ to all supervisors instructing them that Mazyn could not talk to anyone without first obtaining permission.” Mazyn recalls that after sharing the threatening letter, the superintendent shrugged it off as nonsense and then said with a big smile while rubbing his hands together “the fun is just beginning”.
Mazyn then reported Superintendent Taylor’s actions to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and went to the Detroit office of the FBI and met with special agent Dave Brooks. The FBI took possession of the envelope and letter.
Two weeks following the letter, Mazyn was notified about the stereo typical derogatory postings that were put up at the Wayne terminal insulting Arabs and Iraqis. These posting included a picture of a Camel with an Arab being viewed through a rifle scope and pinpointing the Arab quoting “I’d fly 10,000 mile to smoke a camel”.
There was another picture of the Statue of Liberty with her middle finger up and stating “We’re coming Mother F-----‘s”. There were other posting of news paper articles with pictures of truck loads of Arabs being bombed with a hand written phrase on top saying “Awesome strike on Bagdad”.
The Michigan Civil Rights were contacted about this and they immediately went to the terminal and ordered the derogatory postings removed.
In the late part of March, Mazyn went to the SMART Public Board Meeting that was being held in the city of Monroe MI. and complained about what he received in the mail and that SMART management did not seem to care about what happened. Mazyn told them that he was from Iraq and that he was a US Citizen. He showed everyone there the Sand N----- letter.
A few weeks later, Mazyn was disciplined for talking to other people and the General Manager notified both the terminal director, Mavin Perkins and former superintendent that Mazyn would be fired for talking to the SMART board.
The derogatory harassment and abuse continued throughout the month. When incidents were reported SMART supervisors ignored the ongoing incidents, some were captured on camera while SMART supervisors and superintendents stood nearby.
In April of 2004, Mazyn reported to supervisors of the ongoing harassment and physical confrontation with one employee. Their reply, “if Mazyn doesn’t like it, then leave.”
Annette says, “Mazyn kept informing his supervisor Craig Hodges, William “Keith” Moore, Maintenance Director Marvin A. Perkins, General Manager Dan Dirks and also publicly complained many times at different SMART Board Meetings. Everyone ignored the complaints.”
While abusive employees were rewarded and promoted to management, Mazyn continued to face harassment and abuse. In June, common employee privileges were revoked and in September, after visiting a SMART Macomb terminal with his 12 year old daughter, Mazyn noticed more inflammatory pictures and attempted to take pictures. Management quickly interceded and Mazyn was given a 5 day suspension with notice that he could soon be terminated.
The abuse led to Mazyn having to take medical leave in October, at which point a website was created by an employee of SMART and widely viewed on SMART computers of insulting images and writings. The website contained pictures of:
- 911 Terrorist Muhammad Atta
- Chaldean Churches in Iraq
- The Chaldean Patriarch
- Arabic writing
- A noose
- A defamed picture of the Catholic Pope Benedict with a black wig and a Hitler like mustache
- Many different assault style dangerous weapons
- A picture of a hand that resembles the Wayne employee’s hand aiming his assault weapons
- Directions on how to hit a target using a firearm
- Sadaam Hussien
- Camel Cigarette ad saying no fear
- Pictures of Iraqi streets
- I’d fly 10,000 miles to smoke a camel
- A picture taken at the Wayne employee’s work station giving you the middle finger.
And many other offesnive and inflamatory and threatening pictures instigating violence.
After deposition subpoenas went out in May 2007, the website was abandoned.
Attacks against other employees who defended Mazyn Barash were retaliated against. Most of the witnesses who complained about the discrimination Mazyn was endured were disciplined, transferred, suspended, or terminated. Two of the employees were forced to quit after working over twenty five years at SMART.
One employee, Richard Carney said that he was often referred to as a “Sadaam follower” by his supervisor James Roberts for over a year in the presence of other managers until he was terminated. There have been consistent allegations that James Roberts instructed another to send a message to Mazyn informing him that if he returned to work he would be killed.
Many employees stated on the record that attacks continued or intensified even after the Michigan Department of Civil Rights complaints were filed. Another witness, Joseph Mathis was disciplined specifically because he admitted at the MDCR hearing on January 31, 2008 that he had recorded conversations at SMART Bus.
Annette Barrash says, “Mazyn remembers watching helplessly how the government of Iraq treated his father and witnessed him being beaten in Iraq. Mazyn’s family escaped to the U.S. in June of 1966 and now found himself in the very same predicament working at SMART Bus.”
Mazyn is scheduled to testify this Monday, September 22, 2008 at 9:30 am.
“Chaldeans have been voicing their concern over this matter by calling the SMART Bus board members. Although, the board failed to ensure Mazyn’s safety and fair treatment calls from constituents are making a positive impact,” writes Jennifer Sitto. “I have been e-mailing www.chaldean.org wanting to learn more about this issue and have found the boards information and have asked friends and family to call them all.”
The board members represent the suburban counties of Metro Detroit. The next board meeting will be held on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 2 p.m. in Monroe, Michigan at the Lake Erie Transit Conference room of 1105 West 7th Monroe, Michigan 48161. The meeting is open to the public.
Sitto says SMART refused to disclose contact information of the board members on their website so she spent hours researching the board members to find out who they were and how to get in touch with them. Sitto’s e-mail included the following information:
Oakland County Representatives
- Mr. Matthew Wirgau / (248) 689-8282 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Gerry Poisson / 248-858-2090 / Oakland County Deputy Executive (no e-mail provided by the county)
Wayne County Representatives
Macomb County Representatives
Monroe County Representative