Australia’s government is demanding answers and reparation after some of its female citizens were pulled off a Qatar airways flight in Doha, taken to ambulances and forced to undergo an invasive gynecological exam without even being told why.
The alleged invasion of privacy comes about after officials found a baby in the airport’s terminal toilet with a government official labelling the privacy invasion as a “state-sanctioned sexual assault.”
Women, including 13 Australians, were pulled off Qatar Airlines flight QR 908 between Doha and Sydney on Oct. 2 after it landed for a transit stop at the Hamad International Airport in Doha in Qatar, according to reports on Monday, October 26 in Australia.
According to the BBC, a premature baby had been found, alive but abandoned, in a terminal bathroom and Qatar Airways personnel had to “examine women internally,” in an effort to find the woman who had just given birth.
“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,” an airport spokesperson said, according to BBC News.
The women reportedly felt violated as their health and welfare was not taken care of at all and to the greatest surprise of the officials none of the women checked turned out to be the mother.
“Most of them were very upset,” Dr. Wolfgang Babeck, one of 34 passengers on the flight, told The Guardian.
First everyone waited onboard the plane for three hours, he said, then the airline requested all women on the flight to disembark. They returned distraught.
“At least one of them was crying,” Babeck told The Guardian.
“They were discussing what had happened and saying that it was unacceptable and disgusting.”
The flight then took off, and the women told Babeck what had happened.
“They were taken by security personnel into the cellar, not knowing what was going on,” he told The Guardian.
“And then they were presented to a female doctor and they were basically strip-searched and had to take everything downwards off, all their clothes, even their underwear. And then the doctor would try to feel in the uterus and stomach area or lower abdomen to see whether they may have given birth recently.”
According to reports, women were taken off other flights as well. As at press time the baby is alive and being cared for by medical and social workers.
“The Australian Government is aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment of female passengers, including Australian citizens, at Doha (Hamad) airport in Qatar,” the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement obtained by Australia’s 7NEWS, which first reported the incident.
“We have formally registered our serious concerns regarding the incident with Qatari authorities and have been assured that detailed and transparent information on the event will be provided soon.”
Human rights group, Amnesty International, also joined the call.
“It is distressing, and disturbing, and a gross violation of these women’s human rights,” Amnesty International Australia Director Samantha Klintworth told 7NEWS.
“There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation and all of those involved need to be held to account.”