Passengers on flights departing from Qatar were subjected to forced body examinations in early October after a premature newborn was found in a toilet at Doha International Airport, an incident deemed "extremely disturbing" by Australia .
A number of women, mostly Australians, were disembarked from several planes and taken to ambulances where they underwent tests to determine if they had recently given birth. The facts, reported by Australian television station Seven News, occurred on October 2 and were revealed by Australian passengers.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday expressed Australia's disapproval in very strong terms. “This is an extremely, extremely disturbing, shocking, worrying chain of events,” Ms. Payne said. "Never in my life have I heard of such a thing." "We have made our concerns very clear to the Qatari authorities," Payne continued, adding that the Australian Federal Police had been seized of the matter. According to the minister, the publication of a report by the Qatari authorities on this incident is "imminent".
A source in Doha informed of an internal investigation told AFP on Sunday that officials "had forced women to undergo invasive body examinations, mainly Papanicolaou tests (smears, note) forced." Qatar applies Islamic law which severely punishes women who become pregnant out of wedlock. An Australian lawyer from Sydney, Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger on one of the affected flights, told AFP that the women subjected to the examinations had returned to their plane "in a state of shock" after having to strip the part lower body to be examined by a female doctor.
"State of shock"
"They were all upset, some were angry, one was crying, and no one could believe what had just happened," said Babeck, who believes the incident could constitute "a violation of international law" . In addition to Australian female passengers, a French female passenger was also affected, according to an official. Doha Airport reported that "medical staff had expressed concerns to airport officials over the health and well-being of a mother who had just given birth and asked to be located before she was born. leave ".
"Individuals who had access to the area of the airport where the newborn was found were invited to participate in the search," added the airport authorities, without specifying what had been asked of the women questioned or their number. As a result of the incident, one of the affected flights, Qatar Airways' QR908 to Sydney, was four hours late, according to monitoring site Flight Radar 24. Women from other countries and others flights underwent similar examinations. An investigation is underway in Qatar, according to Seven News.
Doha Airport called on Sunday for the baby's mother to come forward, suggesting the exams had been for naught. "The newborn remains unidentified, but it is in good health in the hands of medical and social workers," the airport said, calling on anyone with information about the mother to share it. Ms Payne admitted that Australian officials were briefed by passengers shortly after a flight to Sydney was blocked.
Asked, the company Qatar Airways did not comment on Sunday. The case could tarnish Qatar's reputation as it prepares to welcome tens of thousands of foreign visitors to the World Cup in 2022.