Australian women onboard a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney were marched off the plane, strip-searched and had their genitals medically examined. The incident has been condemned as inappropriate, sexist and humiliating.
More than a dozen female passengers were taken to a waiting ambulance, where they were asked to strip and be examined. The searches were sanctioned after staff found a newborn baby had been abandoned in the terminal.
According to witnesses, Qatar Airways flight QR 908 to Sydney was held on the tarmac for four hours for the search, which took place at the Hamad International Airport in Doha on Oct. 2.
An Australian woman on the plane told ABC News:
No one spoke English or told us what was happening. There was an elderly woman who was vision impaired, and she had to go, too. I’m pretty sure she was searched.
The Australian government is not happy about the treatment of the women and had raised ‘serious’ concerns with Qatar over the incident. Marise Payne, Australia’s minister of foreign affairs, said Monday.
This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events. It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life in any context.
Who’s the Mummy?
However, in a statement, a spokesperson for the airport defended the move saying it was out of concern for the...
health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth, and requested that she be located prior to departing. Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query.
The statement added that the baby is being cared for, but its mother remains unknown. A Qatar Airways spokesperson told the Guardian Australia:
We appreciate the concerns and distress expressed to you by the Australian passengers who you have spoken to, and will be investigating these matters with the relevant authorities and officials.
Police in Australia have launched an investigation into the incident.