A group of women who have undergone gynecological examinations at the Doha airport against their will intend to sue the Qatari authorities, seeking compensation. They are passengers of 10 different flights, including 13 Australians. The incidents took place last year.
In October 2020, an infant was found in a dumpster at Hamad Airport in Qatar. Searching for the mother of an abandoned child at the end of last year, Qatar authorities targeted the passenger of Qatar Airways. The women were led off the plane by armed guards and led to ambulances parked on the runway where nurses performed “invasive gynecological examinations” without the consent of the patients. The research lasted about five minutes. After their completion, the women were escorted back to the plane.
Seven of them, Australian nationals, decided to sue the Qatari authorities. After landing in Australia, they reported the matter to the police. One woman who did not want her name released told the BBC that she had been subjected to “the most horrible examination” of her life. “I was sure that either I would die at the hands of one of the armed men or my husband would be killed on the plane,” said the Australian, quoted in her lawyer’s statement.
“Wall of Silence”
Damian Sturzaker, a lawyer representing a group of seven Australians, told the BBC that the women were faced with a “wall of silence” despite attempts to contact the Qatari authorities. Australians are seeking compensation from the Qatari government, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority and Qatar Airways for assault, battery and illegal imprisonment. They also want a formal apology and procedural changes to prevent a similar incident from happening again, Sturzaker said. He added that the lawsuit would be filed in Australia in the next few weeks.
One of the women who said she had recurring nightmares over the incident said they were motivated to act by the lack of response from Qatar authorities. – Speaking up, we wanted to make sure that no woman would ever fall victim to the demoralizing, horrific treatment to which we were subjected – she emphasized.
“These women experienced a great deal of suffering that night, just over a year ago, and are still struggling with the fears and trauma of what happened then,” their lawyer said.
The case met with great public outcry in Australia.
Warning to others
The women wanted publicity ahead of the Football World Cup next year. Due to the event, thousands of people from all over the world will come to Qatar.
“They should be aware that while there are appearances of a highly developed, modernized airport and national carrier, these events took place and there is nothing to prevent them from happening again,” said Sturzaker.
The Qatar Embassy in Canberra and Qatar Airways have not yet commented on the matter.
As the Guardian reminds us, Qatar is an ultra-conservative Muslim monarchy in which sex and childbirth outside of marriage are punishable by imprisonment. Before the World Cup, the Qatar authorities are trying to present it internationally as a modern and democratic country that respects human rights, including women’s rights.
In the face of image damage related to the incidents at the airport, Qatari authorities promised to guarantee “passenger safety and security”.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani has issued an apology to the Australians. “We are sorry to see such unacceptable treatment of female passengers. What happened does not reflect the rights and values that apply in Qatar,” the head of government wrote on Twitter.
The local prosecutor’s office initiated proceedings that led to the conviction of one of the airport employees, the officer who supervised the operation. The man received a suspended prison sentence.
Main photo source: gnoparus / Shutterstock