The actual incident occurred on October 2. However, Channel 7 News Australia broke the story over the weekend, sparking an outrage. According to the complaint, officials conducted invasive search of women passengers on board Qatar Airways flight QR908.

Airline strip search humiliated women passengers

Airport officials found an abandoned baby in a bathroom at Doha airport. Officials immediately halted the departure of the Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney. The flight remained stranded on the tarmac in Doha for over three hours. A subsequent announcement then asked all female passengers on board to disembark along with their passports. As per The New York Times, what followed was truly horrific.

They were marched from the plane and directed to ambulances. According to Australian officials and accounts from some women, they were strip-searched and given invasive medical exams to see if they had recently given birth because a newborn had been found abandoned in a bathroom at Hamad International Airport.

A passenger who experienced the ordeal described details of the incident.

Jessica, the nurse, said that she and the other women were divided into groups of four and led onto the tarmac toward two ambulances. She and at least one other woman were told to lie down on a table and remove their underwear, she said. The ambulance she was in had windows without blinds, she said, and more than a dozen men were standing outside. The experience lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, she said.

Immediate Backlash

On one hand, Australian government officials and police plan to take airport officials to task over this incident. On the other hand, Qatar Airways hasn’t officially commented or responded to this incident.

This incident triggered sparked a political firestorm in Australia. Australian officials now plan to take up the issue globally. They also plan to highlight this incident as an example of the plight of women in Qatar. Foreign policy experts say that this could even harm relations between the two countries.

The Pundit’s Mantra

Critics cite this incident as simply as an example of what’s wrong at Qatar Airways. Back in 2018, CEO Akber Al Baker commented that women were incapable of doing his job as it was very challenging. Al Baker apologized later after coming under heavy criticism for his comment.

The issue raises an important legal question about the rights of passengers while they transit or travel to other countries. The aggrieved women may end up receiving compensation, but it’ll do little to heal the trauma they endured.


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