Qatar apologized to Australia on Wednesday after the Australian Government accused the Doha authorities of subjecting several Australians to forced gynecological tests at Hamad International Airport.
The incident happened on October 2, when a newborn baby was found in the airport bathroom, in a plastic bag, in a trash can.
As they were unable to identify the baby’s mother, according to a complaint made by the Australian Government, the Doha authorities removed an uncertain number of women from ten flights, taking them to an ambulance on the airport runway, where they were forced to remove their clothes. and taking gynecological tests to see if any had recently given birth.
The Australian Government says that at least 13 Australians and five women of other nationalities, who have not been revealed, have been removed from a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney.
According to Reuters, the complaint came from an Australian diplomat who was on one of the flights – but who did not undergo any tests – and who was “absolutely shocked” by what she witnessed.
The BBC adds that several women showed signs of distress after the incidents, and that they received medical support from the Australian Government.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the treatment applied to women was “unacceptable” and “horrendous”, and assured that his executive will continue to demand answers from Qatar.
In the same vein, Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign minister, denounced “grossly inappropriate” and “offensive” behavior against Australian women.
The total number of women undergoing gynecological tests on the remaining nine flights has yet to be determined; however, the Australian Government stresses that “other affected countries absolutely share the position and strength of Australia’s positions”. AFP says at least one of the victims is French.
With the pressure mounting, Qatar reacted on Wednesday and, in addition to an apology, Qatar Prime Minister Jaled bin Jalifa Al Thani announced the opening of a “comprehensive and transparent” investigation, the results of which will be shared internationally.
“Even though the objective of the search urgency was to prevent the perpetrators of a horrible crime from escaping, the State of Qatar regrets any anguish or violation of individual freedoms that this action may have caused to travelers,” reads a statement released by the Doha government, which added that the baby is receiving medical care and that the mother has not yet been identified.
The Doha Airport incident was condemned by Human Rights Watch (HRW), which demanded Qatar to ban forced gynecological examinations and examine the circumstances that led to a baby being abandoned in a trash can.
In Qatar, sexual relations outside of marriage are criminalized, with hospitals being forced to report pregnant women to the authorities, which has led human rights organizations, such as HRW, to criticize a penal system “that does not criminalize domestic violence and rape in marriage ”.
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