Female passengers on 10 planes flying out of Doha, Qatar, were forced to endure invasive physical examinations, Australia’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, greatly expanding the number of women previously thought affected.
It was revealed on Sunday that women were removed from a Sydney-bound Qatar Airways flight in Doha earlier this month and forced to undergo vaginal inspections after a newborn baby was found abandoned in an airport bathroom.
Female passengers on 10 planes flying out of #Qatar were forced to endure invasive physical examinations, #Australia’s foreign minister confirms, greatly expanding the number of women previously thought affected.https://t.co/eae475uZOI
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) October 28, 2020
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told a Senate hearing Wednesday that women on “10 aircraft in total” had been subject to the searches she has described as “grossly disturbing” and “offensive”.
“We became aware of that yesterday through advice from our post in Doha,” she said.
Australia had registered its “serious concern” about the treatment of the women, she added.
She said 18 Australian women on the October 2 flight to Sydney were affected, along with “other foreign nationals”. AFP understands one French woman on the flight was among them. Payne did not detail the destinations of the other flights.
The incident has sparked a diplomatic row between Australia and Qatar, with Canberra lodging protests with the Middle East nation over the treatment of its citizens.
Officials said Australia was also working with other countries to jointly raise concerns with Doha but refused to name those countries, citing privacy concerns.
Payne admitted she had not spoken directly to her Qatari counterpart, saying she was “waiting to see the report” on the incident, which she expected to receive this week.
Doha’s Hamad International airport previously confirmed a broad outline of events, without providing details of the procedures, or the number of women and flights involved. It also launched an appeal Sunday for the child’s mother to come forward, saying the baby remains unidentified but is “safe under the professional care of medical and social workers”.
Investigation on the incident
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, has ordered a “comprehensive, transparent investigation” into the incident, the Government Communications Office said in a statement on Wednesday.
The newborn, a baby girl, was found in a plastic bag in a rubbish bin in “what appeared to be a shocking and appalling attempt to kill her”, the statement said.
“This egregious and life-threatening violation of the law triggered an immediate search for the parents, including on flights in the vicinity of where the newborn was found,” the statement said.
“While the aim of the urgently decided search was to prevent the perpetrators of the horrible crime from escaping, the State of Qatar regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler caused by this action.”
The Transport Workers’ Union of New South Wales, whose members service Qatar Airways planes at Sydney Airport, said on Tuesday it was considering industrial action against the carrier for “the brutal attack on the human rights of Australian female airline passengers”, reported Al Jazeera.
“Other countries affected absolutely share Australia’s views and the strength of Australia’s views,” said Frances Adamson, secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “This is not by any standard normal behavior and the Qataris recognize that and are appalled by it, do not want it to happen again.”
Australia was alerted to the incident by a female Australian diplomat who was on the flight and was “shocked at what happened”, Adamson said. The diplomat was not searched.
Doha’s Hamad International Airport launched an appeal on Sunday for the child’s mother to come forward, saying the baby remains unidentified but is “safe under the professional care of medical and social workers”.
AFP with additional information from Global Village Space