Authorities Forcibly Examine Female Passengers After Premature Baby Found in Airport Bathroom

All female passengers were escorted off a Sydney-bound flight so that authorities could examine their genitals.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
qatar police plane
Photo by AFP (L) and Elvis Barukcic/Contributor, Getty (R)

More than a dozen women allegedly had their genitals examined by Qatari authorities, without their consent, after a premature baby was found abandoned in a bathroom at Doha’s Hamad International Airport this month, prompting an international investigation.

Airport staff discovered the baby on the night of October 2, prompting authorities to remove every female passenger from a Sydney-bound flight and escort them to a pair of ambulances waiting outside the airport. The women were then forced to remove their underwear, at which point authorities invasively examined their genitals, according to Seven News

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Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has formally complained to Qatari authorities following the incident, which involved 13 Australians.

“The Australian government is aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment of female passengers, including Australian citizens, at Doha (Hamad) airport in Qatar,” DFAT said in a statement. "We have 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.”

One of the women involved told the ABC she’s considering legal action over the "terrifying" experience.

"No-one spoke English or told us what was happening. It was terrifying," she said. "If the other 12 women came forward with a class action, I would definitely be part of that.”

Another of the women described the sense of panic she felt when she realised she was being escorted outside of the airport.

"When I got in there … there was a lady with a mask on and then the authorities closed the ambulance behind me and locked it," she said. "They never explained anything. She told me to pull my pants down and that I needed to examine my vagina. I said 'I'm not doing that' and she did not explain anything to me. She just kept saying, 'we need to see it we need to see it'."

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Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne described the incident as a "grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events", and said the matter had been referred to the Australian Federal Police—although it’s unclear how much power they would have over such a matter.

"It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context," Payne said. "We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter."

The incident was not reported publicly until Sunday, October 25—three weeks after the fact.

A spokesperson for Hamad International Airport has since confirmed the child is being cared for by medical and social workers.

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