Qatar scandal: finally some answers | DE24 News

These extraordinary events – triggered by the discovery of a newborn baby hidden in a trash can at the airport – became known to the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade [ DFAT] On October 4, one of the women involved in the affair was an employee of the transit department, but she was not on duty at the time. It was through her that the news of what had happened reached the head of DFAT, Frances Adamson, via an overnight message on October 3rd.
A surveillance image from Doha News shows officials holding an allegedly abandoned baby at Hamad International Airport. Recognition:Doha News / AP

Several other women reported their ordeal to the Australian Federal Police after they landed in Sydney preparing for two-week hotel quarantine. However, nothing reached the public’s ears until last Sunday when Channel 7 broke the story.

The outrage has grown steadily since then as more details emerge about the ordeal of the women. One who spoke anonymously to ABC said she was ordered to take off her underwear for a vaginal exam. Another described her treatment as “incredibly invasive”.

The illustrator Ffranses Ingram, who was spared the physical examination at the age of 73, was removed from the plane along with the other women.

“We had come from other destinations and we were all tired – we just didn’t know what was going on. In a way, it was almost incredible, ”she said Age and the Herold. “I think the fact that they dropped us off in groups was strategic and designed so that no one could band together and call the consulate, which should have happened.”

DFAT has since confirmed that women on up to nine other flights passing through Doha at the time were also affected, although numbers and details remain unclear. It is believed that the 18 on the flight to Sydney included women from the UK, France, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Sri Lanka.

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison broke the government silence this week, he declared in horror, saying that “As a father of two daughters, I could only shudder at the thought of anyone … being exposed to it.”

Foreign Secretary Marise Payne described it as “grossly disruptive” and “offensive”.

Labor frontbenchers also lined up to show outrage, and opposition leader Anthony Albanese called it an “attack” and a “outrageous violation” of women’s human rights. The chairman and vice chairman of Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, Andrew Hastie and Anthony Byrne, have canceled a scheduled dinner with the Qatari ambassador in protest.
Foreign Secretary Marise Payne described the incident as “grossly disruptive” and “offensive”. Recognition:Alex Ellinghausen

A defensive statement from the Qatar government communications office mid-week focused on the abandonment of the baby, calling it a “shocking and appalling” attempt to kill the child that prompted an “immediate search for the parents, including on flights in the “environment in which the newborn was found”. The statement offered fleeting “regrets” for “any distress or violation of personal freedoms” but not a full apology.

That had changed late on Friday night when Doha apparently thought better of its defense. In a move welcomed by Payne, the Qatar Government Communications Bureau issued an updated statement offering its “most sincere apology” to the women concerned and saying that those responsible for the breach of standard practice had been expelled from the country’s public prosecutor’s office.

“Specialized task forces are reviewing and identifying potential loopholes in the procedures and protocols followed at Hamad International Airport in order to fix them and ensure that future violations are avoided,” the statement said.

“This incident is the first of its kind at HIA that has served tens of millions of passengers without such problems. What happened completely contradicts the culture and values ​​of Qatar. ”

In her reply, also released late Friday, Payne welcomed both the apology and recognition of the Qatar government’s “offensive treatment” of female passengers. “Qatar’s preliminary investigation into this incident revealed that illegal acts took place,” she said, adding that it was an “important step that these crimes have been expelled.” [for prosecution]“.

Earlier this week, Payne had been targeted by her counterpart, Labor’s Penny Wong, for not following up the issue through a personal call to her Qatari counterpart, but developments on Friday night will ease that criticism.

In Qatar itself, there was muted coverage in the mainstream media, but active discussion on social media. “People are shocked,” said a young Qatar, who asked for anonymity. “In our society, our culture, you don’t even look a woman in the eye because that’s disrespectful.”

It’s also confusing how such an order could have been issued without considering the risk of massive reputational damage.

The tiny but extremely affluent country has become rich in oil and liquefied natural gas in recent years and is home to the al-Udeid grand coalition air force base. It has also tried to establish itself as an international travel hub to compete with nearby and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
A giant image of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, adorns a tower in Doha.Recognition:AP

Qatar Airways secured the title of “World’s Best Airline” at the Skytrax Awards last year, and much image was improved in the run-up to the World Cup, which Qatar will host in 2022. Indeed, the proposed expansion of Dohas Hamad International Airport was seen as an integral part of these preparations.

According to Dr. Rodger Shanahan, a Middle East expert at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, faces great embarrassment in Qatar on the world stage.

„Dies [controversy] The timing is very bad for them, “says Shanahan.” They were criticized for how they won the 2022 World Cup [the subject of bribery allegations in the US];; They have also come under criticism of the working conditions for foreign workers who build the venues and, being such a small population, are very sensitive to outside criticism. ”

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Dr. Jessie Moritz, lecturer at the ANU Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies, says: “This event is not the image that Qatar wants to present to the world.”

It’s also not a good time for Qatar – a state spanning just 11,600 square kilometers – to lose friends overseas. As of 2017, it has been at strong disagreement with several of its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, for its friendliness towards Iran and Turkey and its alleged tolerance towards organizations linked to the financing of terrorism.

Moritz, who lived in Qatar, describes it as “incredibly diverse” with “plenty of room for intercultural communication errors”. Native Qataris make up only 10 to 15 percent of a population of less than 3 million; The rest are expatriates and migrant workers from India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Egypt and Sri Lanka, among others. It is also, says Moritz, a patriarchal society with “very harsh penalties” for extramarital affairs and sex outside of marriage.

Still, it doesn’t restrict women as much as Saudi Arabia. More women than men have completed higher education, and Qatar’s deputy foreign minister is a young woman, Lolwah al-Khater.

The hereditary emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, whose family has been in power for more than a century and whose Council of Ministers is hand-picked, rules the whole thing.

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The incident in Doha is a strong reminder that there is no special protection for international passengers who are just in transit. “A country’s law applies in full throughout its territory,” says Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney. He also believes there is little hope of an appeal unless Qatar Airways freely offers compensation. Foreign immunity means that it is “very difficult to take action against state agents, even if they are acting unlawfully,” adds Saul.

Australian Federation of Travel Agencies Chairman Tom Manwaring says there is no reason to avoid the transit points in the Gulf because of the ordeal of women. “It’s horrible what happened, but we would hope it will never be repeated. It’s the first time I’ve heard of it anywhere in my 50 years of traveling. ”

But Ffranses Ingram says she never wants to fly over a country in the Middle East again. She is also unhappy with what she sees as a lack of government action. She says the police called her and told her it was more or less out of their hands. Nobody from DFAT made direct contact.

A government source said it was up to women to contact the department, not the other way around, but the only point of contact that appears to have been offered (at least for Ingram) is DFAT’s generic consular support number. However, on Friday Payne said the Australian government would “endeavor to provide any assistance.” [the women involved] maybe need “.

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Deborah Snow is a senior writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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