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Doha airport forces genital exam on Australian women

written by Adam Thorn | October 26, 2020

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 A7-APE at Sydney Airport. (Qatar Airways)
Qatar Airways Airbus A380 A7-APE at Sydney Airport. (Qatar Airways)

Qatari authorities forced 13 Australian women to remove their underwear for a genital examination at Doha’s Hamad International Airport against their consent, according to reports.

The invasive procedure was apparently carried out because staff found a premature baby abandoned in a bathroom.

In response, the Australian government has said it has formally registered “serious concerns” with Qatari authorities over the incident that witnesses said subsequently left women in tears.

The story, broken by Seven News and confirmed by The Sydney Morning Herald, alleges that the women were on board flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on 2 October before being asked to leave the plane to be detained.

The ABC spoke to a witness on the flight, Wolfgang Babeck, who said passengers were waiting on the tarmac for several hours before all women were told to disembark.


“I thought the more vulnerable persons are being taken out and I was wondering what will happen now, are they looking for someone, are they searching the plane?” Dr Babeck told RN Breakfast.

“Then some security people came onboard and looking [to see] whether passengers had been hiding on the plane.

“When the women came back, many of them or probably all of them were upset — one of them was in tears, a younger woman. People couldn’t believe what had happened.”

The Australian women then had the ordeal of having to complete two-week hotel quarantine after the plane landed in Sydney, but were provided with “medical and psychological support” by NSW Health.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement, “The Australian government is aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment of female passengers, including Australian citizens, at Doha (Hamad) airport in Qatar.

“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.”

Hamad Airport said in a statement released to the ABC that the premature baby was safe and receiving care, but that the mother hasn’t been located.

“At this time, the newborn infant remains unidentified, but is safe under the professional care of medical and social workers,” the statement said.

“Medical professionals expressed concern to officials about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing [the airport].”

That state of Qatar effectively owns both Hamad Airport and the flag carrier, Qatar Airways.

In June, Australian Aviation reported how Qatar Airways’ share of passengers travelling to and from Australia leapt from just 3 per cent to 44.5 per cent in April.

The jump meant the carrier, owned by the namesake state, was by far the biggest in terms of passengers carried – with previous number one Qantas slumping from 17.9 per cent to just 2.9 per cent.

The airline, which is owned by the state of Qatar, has made much of its decision to keep flying during the pandemic, launching a huge PR offensive using the slogan ‘Taking You Home’.

Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker, said, “While many airlines suspended operations, we continued to maintain a robust schedule and network. Our commitment to the travel market is clear, Qatar Airways is the airline passengers and trade partners can rely on now and in the future.”

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Comments (13)

  • Nicola


    Truly appalling behaviour. I will never fly Qatar.

  • James Huey


    I sens that Qatar Airways will have to do a lot of “damage control” over this !

  • Matt


    If this is how they treat their passengers, imagine how they treat their staff.

  • Peter Uziallo


    Let’s hope when air travel is normalised post COVID, most passengers from civilised countries will boycott Qatar and any flights that pass through this third world “religious”country.
    I hope the victims of this barbaric act will pursue a class action against Qatar Airways here in Australia.

  • ian


    just another reason to NOT fly anywhere with these airlines

  • Pete


    These Middle East carriers, they have the fanciest cabins, the most attentive cabin crew, amazing menus and award-winning wine-lists, mind-blowing lounges, accolades for their hard and soft products in first, business, and economy class. Yet it takes something like this to remind us that their countries of origin are places where human rights are ridden over, rough-shod, by brutal, primitive, misogynistic, homophobic, totalitarian theocracies that, for all their glass skyscrapers, Bentley dealerships, and pretenses to modernity, have at their base the same culture today that they had in the 7th century.

    Don’t fly these airlines. Choose a carrier from a civilised country where human rights are respected and women are not treated like farm animals.

  • Td


    Absolutely appalling and enough reason not to fly through Doha. I wonder if they did a se arch of every woman in the terminal prior to them leaving the terminal including staff. It’s not like it’s an immediate life threatening situation that couldn’t b e handled in Sydney on arrival or other means of investigation. I guess the Captain didn’t think to use his /her authority to prohibit this search until a better option was formulated.

  • Nat


    Other articles say they conducted an internal examine to view the cervix, as opposed to this one saying a genital exam. Either is appalling and my heart goes out to all of the women subjected to this disgraceful, traumatic treatment.
    I read a man’s account who was on board, who said all of the women returned distressed, in shock and some were crying.
    They weren’t even told why or given any mental preparation about what was about to occur.
    Surety this country has heard of urine pregnancy tests, hcg levels remain high for approx 5weeks post-partum, and they only take a couple of minutes for the result that are 99% accurate. Any test without consent is dreadful but it would of been a more appropriate less invasive option.
    I expect our government to be very firm with Qatar and take appropriate action, not only for the women on board that flight, Australian or not, but for the women of the world.
    It is not ok.

  • Charles


    The Australian government´s response “serious concern” is about the same as Paul Keating´s “like being flogged with a warm lettuce”. Seems like the government is kicking the can down the road waiting for it to blow over. Harvey Weinsten was charged with less than this and is in jail. What happended to the famous Australian feistiness? Forcing a woman to submit to sexual examination is called sexual assault. Will econcomic interests once again prevail? As for Qatar it is a serious candidate for Trump´s famous S++t Hole status despite the glitzy displys of material progress. Why did this matter take so long to get into the media?

  • Shane


    This is why I would never go to any of these middle east countries. Pathetic treatment of women. The airline should be banned from our shores.

  • Anne Fedoson


    We travelled with Qatar airlines last year – never again. What a vicious misogynist way of investigating “the parents” – only one parent was being investigated here. If they wanted to know who dumped the baby haven’t they heard of CCTV cameras? Why didn’t they check the footage for that area.

  • David


    Sorry “serious Concerns” dont cut it. Qatar should be banned from flying to Australia for at least 12 months. No negotiation. Its disgusting what they did.

  • Catharine mcRae


    Apparently some men still don’t get it, Andy. What if you were forcibly removed from a flight, stripped and held down while strangers shoved a finger up your arse? Would it be ok? You’d be outraged and terrified. And since you have never experienced it, a pelvic exam is far more invasive than what mens procedures are. Shut up.

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