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Doha faces diplomatic row after women strip-searched at airport

Australia’s government has registered “serious concerns” with Qatar following a strip-searching scandal at Doha airport. (File/AFP)
Australia’s government has registered “serious concerns” with Qatar following a strip-searching scandal at Doha airport. (File/AFP)
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25 Oct 2020 11:10:51 GMT9
25 Oct 2020 11:10:51 GMT9
  • The female passengers were taken to a private area of the airport and subject to intrusive examinations
  • The doctor examined the women to see whether they may have given birth recently, Babeck said

Arab News

LONDON: Australia’s government has registered “serious concerns” with Qatar following a strip-searching scandal at Doha airport.

A flight to Sydney from Hamad International Airport was due to leave on Oct. 2, but was delayed by more than four hours after authorities allegedly discovered a deceased new-born infant in the airport.

All the female passengers on board the aircraft were ordered to disembark. A doctor on the flight told Guardian Australia that the women returned some time later and that “most of them were very upset.”

Dr. Wolfgang Babeck added: “At least one of them was crying, they were discussing what had happened and saying it was unacceptable and disgusting.”

The flight took off after the women returned. Babeck said he spoke with some of the passengers, who told him they were taken to a private area of the airport and subject to intrusive examinations.

“They were taken by security personnel into the cellar, not knowing what was going on. And then they were presented to a female doctor and they were basically strip-searched and had to take everything … off, all their clothes, even their underwear,” he added.

“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. Someone had been told that a baby had been found in the toilet and they were trying to find out who the mother was.”

Other reports say the inspections took place in an ambulance on the runway, and 13 Australian women were strip-searched.

A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told Guardian Australia that it was “aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment, in Qatar, of passengers on a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney. DFAT is seeking further information from the Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways.”

On Sunday, DFAT issued an updated statement saying Australia’s government had “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.”

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