Outrage after Qatar conducted 'invasive' medical exams of women at Doha airport


JEDDAH — Qatar on Wednesday expressed “regrets for subjecting more than a dozen women to invasive medical exams after an abandoned newborn was found in an airport bathroom.

Women passengers flying Qatar Airways were strip-searched and given physical exams by Qatari officials at an airport in Doha earlier this month.

The incident has caused massive outrage with Rights activists and others calling it sexual assault.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the incident was "unacceptable" and "appalling", following disturbing details outlined in the Qatari governments' statement.

The examinations occurred after a newborn premature baby was found in a terminal bathroom at Hamad International Airport on Oct. 2.

"A newborn infant was found in a trash can, concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage, at Hamad International Airport (HIA)," the Qatari government said in a statement.

"The baby girl was rescued from what appeared to be a shocking and appalling attempt to kill her."

"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,” the statement added.

The government, however, tried to defend the officials who made such an outrageous and atrocious move.

"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 statement pointed out.

According to the statement, the Qatari government has ordered a "comprehensive, transparent investigation" into the incident which will be shared with Australian authorities.

"The State of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety, security, and comfort of all travelers transiting through the country," the statement concluded.

The Australian government now claims that women on 10 different flights at Doha airport were subjected to internal examinations by Qatari authorities.

The Australian prime minister said his government would consider "all options", including legal action, once it had reviewed the investigation report into the incident.

"We find this unacceptable. That has been the official message and conveyed very clearly in the investigation because it is unacceptable," Morrison said.

"As a father of a daughter, I could only shudder at the thought that anyone would, Australian or otherwise, be subjected to that.

"There is no doubt in the mind of whether its Qatari airlines or the government, about Australia's strong objections and views about this and I, think those views are shared, widely, so we will make a further response ... once we have the opportunity to see the results of that investigation."

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Wednesday told a parliamentary hearing 18 Australian women were involved.

"The matters which are being discussed in relation to this matter are very concerning and very distributing and the Australian government has been clear about that," Payne said.

It is also understood there were a number of women of other nationalities also involved. —Agencies