The Australian government demands answers from Qatari authorities after what it described as “a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events” involving several of its nationals.
Thirteen Australian women, among others, were reportedly taken off a Qatar Airways flight and subjected to a thorough medical examination after a fetus was found in a restroom at the Hamad International Airport, Australian media reported on Sunday.
According to Sydney’s press, the Australian Federal Government has addressed “serious concerns” over allegations that authorities staff forced women passengers on Flight QR 908 to get strip-searched after a “premature baby” was found in one of the HIA terminal’s restrooms.
Australia’s 9News, reported that the women taken off the flight did not know why the airline company asked them to do so.
“The Australian Government is aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment of female passengers, including Australian citizens, at Doha (Hamad) airport in Qatar,” a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement published on 9News.
The spokesperson added that the department has formally registered their concerns regarding the incident with Qatari authorities and are awaiting their response.
British news website, The Guardian’s Australian affiliate, was able to speak to one of the 34 passengers on the flight. Dr Wolfgang Babeck, who was on the flight to Australia, said that the passengers had to wait for three hours to board the plane then Qatar Airways asked all the women on board to leave the flight.
“At least one of them was crying, they were discussing what had happened and saying that it was unacceptable and disgusting,” Dr Babeck told The Guardian.
He added that the women were presented to a female doctor who strip-searched them.
“The doctor would try to feel in the uterus and stomach area or lower abdomen to see whether they may have given birth recently,” Dr. Babeck added.
Abandoned baby found
Doha News reached out to Qatar Airways for a response and received the following statement from HIA, saying that a newborn infant was found abandoned on Oct. 2, 2020, and was immediately provided with medical attention.
“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 HIA. Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” HIA told Doha News.
“At this time the newborn infant remain unidentified but is safe under the professional care of medical and social workers. The entire team at HIA requests anyone with any information or knowledge of the mother to contact us [email protected]” the statement added.
The incident has triggered an online backlash against the way in which the women were treated after the news broke on Australian television on Sunday, with 7News Agency describing it as a “horrific violation” of women’s rights.
Qatar’s residents and nationals alike have condemned the way in which the female passengers were treated.
“It is distressing and disturbing and a gross violation of these women’s human rights,” Samantha Klintworth, Director of Amnesty International Australia, told 7News. “There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation and all of those involved need to be held to account.”
It is still not known who the mother of the abandoned baby is, but authorities have told Doha News that the newborn is being taken care of.