Qatar Airways and the State of Qatar are facing public backlash after female passengers on several flights were forced to go through invasive medical exams to see if they had recently given birth.
A prematurely born baby girl was found in one of the ladies’ restrooms at the Hamad International Airport concealed in the garbage. Someone then thought that violating female passengers’ rights was the right course of action and conduct invasive exams on the tarmac.
It turns out that there was a total of 18 female passengers on their way to Australia affected by these searches, and a total of 10 flights. The search may have been conducted on hundreds of women.
Here’s the statement released by the State of Qatar:
Government Communications Office statement on an abandoned infant discovered at Hamad International Airport
28 October 2020
On 2nd October 2020, a newborn infant was found in a trash can, concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage, at Hamad International Airport (HIA). The baby girl was rescued from what appeared to be a shocking and appalling attempt to kill her. The infant is now safe under medical care in Doha.
This was the first instance of an abandoned infant being discovered in such a condition at HIA – 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. 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.
His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar has directed that a comprehensive, transparent investigation into the incident be conducted. The results of the investigation will be shared with our international partners. The State of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety, security and comfort of all travelers transiting through the country.
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times about women rights in Qatar:
The episode has highlighted the treatment of women in Qatar, where sex, pregnancy and childbirth outside of marriage are criminalized. Women accused of such crimes, even if their pregnancy resulted from rape, could face arrest or imprisonment.
The episode also raised questions about whether foreign women traveling through the airport in Qatar could legally be subject to invasive and potentially nonconsensual procedures, experts said. In 2016, a Dutch woman who had reported being drugged and raped was convicted of adultery and handed a suspended sentence, along with fines.
Human Rights Watch released a comprehensive report about employment practices in the country:
It makes you wonder why the always so vocal head of Qatar Airways Mr. Akbar Al Baker, who once called American Airlines flight attendants grannies, has been so quiet about what took place?
Qatar Airways was struggling with the Australian market before the Covid-19 hit but has since expanded its network and now carries 30% of the limited passenger traffic to/from the country.
Violating female passengers’ rights may affect how passengers who live in western societies choose with whom they fly and through which countries. Why would you choose to fly with an airline (Qatar Airways is not the only one) from a country with few civil rights?
As I have said it many times previously, the Gulf States are not western democracies, and you have very few rights as non-national if something goes wrong or you are a suspect.
I am sure that we will eventually find out the story behind this tragedy and who left the baby behind in Doha.