Qatar Under Australian Scrutiny Over Search Of Female Passengers

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The Qatari Government is coming under fire after scores of female passengers were detained at Doha’s Hamad International Airport earlier this month and subjected to searches described as “invasive” and “traumatic.”

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Female passengers got pulled off flights in Doha earlier this month and subjected to intrusive body searches. Photo: Getty Images

An abandoned baby saw women pulled off planes and “examined”

The incident is fast gaining attention after several impacted Australian women spoke out about their treatment. On Friday, October 2, a premature baby was found abandoned in toilets at Doha’s Airport. A media representative from Hamad International Airport has said the child was safe and is now cared for by medical and social workers.

“Medical professionals expressed concern to officials about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing HIA,” a spokesperson for Hamad International Airport told Simple Flying

But it’s what happened next that is raising the ire of the Australian Government.

According to reports, an undisclosed number of female passengers were escorted by security off planes waiting to push back at Doha. Those women were taken to ambulances and examined for signs of having just given birth. Among the group detained were thirteen Australian women, pulled off a Qatar Airways flight bound for Sydney. That flight was allegedly held up for four hours. But, it wasn’t just Australian women impacted. Women from various countries were “escorted” off various departing planes to be examined.

On Monday, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, called what happened “grossly disturbing.”

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“Officials were forcing women to undergo invasive body searches, basically forced Pap smears,” Australia’s SBS reports an informant telling the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

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Hamad International Airport promotes itself as a welcoming place for all. Photo: Qatar Airways

Australian Government deeply unimpressed

Australian media report the women were required to remove their underwear and invasively examined without consent. Mandatory 14-day quarantine periods for passengers arriving into Australia could account for the time lag between the incident occurring and it coming to public attention.

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While Qatari authorities said they were concerned for the mother’s welfare, the Qatari Government takes a dim view of women who become pregnant and have children outside marriage.

Doha-based Qatar Airways has kept flying throughout 2020, not just to Australia, but to destinations worldwide. The government-owned airline has earned plaudits for doing so.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called the treatment of the women offensive and grossly inappropriate.

The Australian Government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” a DFAT spokesperson told Simple Flying.

“The Government has formally registered our serious concerns about this incident with Qatari authorities.”

A blow to Doha’s reputation

Doha’s Hamad International Airport handles around 360,000 flights and 30 million passengers every year. It’s the home base of Qatar Airways and the airport has big plans for the future. The airport is currently expanding with ambitions of handling 60 million passengers annually.

In the Qatari Government’s sights are female airport workers on-site at the time.

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“Individuals who had access to a specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the inquiry,” a media representative from Hamad International Airport is reported saying.

Simple Flying has contacted Doha’s Hamad International Airport directly for comment but has not heard back from them before publication.

DFAT is pursuing the matter with the Qatari Government via diplomatic channels

To date, the mother of the child has not been located.

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