Qatar’s government has promised to probe the disturbing treatment meted out on female Australian passengers onboard 10 Qatar Airways flights. The airlines on October 2 flew from Doha to Sydney, and the Australian government filed the complaints to the Qatari government on behalf of its citizens. The female passengers were physically searched and sexually probed after a baby was found to have been abandoned at the Qatar International Airport.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison who had before now been mute on the issue expressed strong disapproval over the incident. He decried the fact that Australian female citizens were forcefully taken off the planes at the international airport in Qatar and made to undergo offensive and sexually invasive checks in waiting ambulances.
Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar, had ordered that investigations be carried out to unravel the incident of the baby abandonment. In a statement in Qatar, the communications department had revealed that a baby girl was discovered to be abandoned in a trash can earlier at the airport. The authorities revealed that the baby, covered in a plastic bag, appeared to have suffered a murderous attempt on her life.
While regretting the search incident on the Australian travelers, the statement read that the search’s purpose was to quickly prevent any escape attempt by the culprits of such a hideous crime. It added that the Qatar government regrets the violation of travelers’ rights and freedom, and any trauma the search may have caused them.
On Wednesday, during a government committee meeting, Australian officials alleged that nine more flights in addition to the 10 at Doha were also searched. The officials said that the Australian government would work in close collaboration with governments of other countries whose citizens were also affected.
The Australian government was alerted to the ugly incident by one of the passengers on the Qatar flights who happened to be an Australian diplomat. Though she was luckily not searched, she was terrified by the happenings on that day.
The Qatar government had said that the outcome of investigations into the incident would be made known to international partners. An informed source stated that “the Qatari investigation is to determine which laws might have been violated, any individuals responsible, and recommend disciplinary and prosecutorial action where appropriate”.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch, which expressed worries about an innocent baby being abandoned, stated that out-of-wedlock sexual affairs were a criminal offense in Qatar, and advised the Qatari government to proscribe mandatory intimate searches.
Rothna Begum, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher, added that the Qatari system had “failed many women [going by] the unknown woman forced to give birth in an airport toilet, unable to ask for assistance with her labor or on what to do with the baby, and the multiple women reportedly pulled off the plane for examinations”.