The five women suing Qatar Airways over an incident that saw passengers subjected to non-consensual genital examinations at Doha airport have launched a crowdfunding page to pay for their legal costs.
The group, which includes a nurse, schoolteacher and grandmother, hope to raise $150,000 but has so far only been pledged $435. You can make a donation to their cause here.
It comes after the women began their legal case last week against both Qatar and its national carrier. The filing to the Federal Court includes claims that three of them were subject to “intimate gynaecological examinations” — one of whom was accompanied by her five-month-old son.
“In early October 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, many Australians were desperate to return home,” said the women on Australian platform Chuffed.
“Qatar Airways was one of the few airlines still offering flights. On 2 October 2020, 18 women onboard Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney (and countless women on other flights that same day) were taken off their aircraft by armed Qatari authorities.
“We were amongst those women. We feared for our lives and were concerned we were being held hostage or caught up in a terrorist incident.
“Most of us were then channelled into ambulances on the airport tarmac and subjected to invasive non-consensual strip searches and examinations by Qatari authorities.
“The reason given for these extraordinary breaches of human rights was that a newborn baby had been sadly abandoned in the airport toilets earlier that day. The Qatari authorities were searching for the mother, likely not in order to reunite her with her child but to arrest her.
“Over the past two years, we have reached out to Qatar Airways and the authority that controls Doha Airport, the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), seeking assurances that other women will not be subjected to the same appalling treatment when travelling through Qatar, and we have asked for a personal apology for the hurt and distress that we have suffered.
“Each of us have, to differing degrees, suffered mental harm including PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
“We are all individuals of modest means. We are nurses, schoolteachers, grandparents, and small business owners.
“Complex litigation such as this will inevitably cost a significant amount of money. We need your help to raise at least $150,000.
“If the court makes a costs order in our favour, this could mean that we end up raising more money than we need to pay our legal costs. If this happens, we will make a donation of any surplus funds to an appropriate charity linked to women’s rights in Qatar.
“Surplus funds will include any amount recovered through a costs order, as well as any funds raised that exceed the total amount charged by our lawyers.”
Aside from the 13 Australian passengers, a further five women from other countries, including the UK and France, were also asked to leave the plane bound for Sydney.
It was later confirmed that women from as many as 10 other flights were also subjected to the ordeal.
Early reports of the incident suggest the women involved were “distraught” and “couldn’t believe what had happened”, as they were pulled from their long-delayed flights and subject to intimate examinations, with no explanation.
One of the women searched spoke anonymously to the ABC and said authorities locked the ambulance door before telling her to undress.
“When I got in there, and there was a lady with a mask on and then the authorities closed the ambulance behind me and locked it,” she said. “They never explained anything.
“She told me to pull my pants down and that I needed to examine my vagina. I said ‘I’m not doing that’ and she did not explain anything to me. She just kept saying, ‘We need to see it, we need to see it’.”
The woman continued that she was eventually let out of the ambulance and ran over to the other girls but added there was “nowhere for me to run”. She eventually removed her clothes and was inspected, and touched, by a female nurse.
“Everyone had gone white and was shaking. I was very scared at that point, I didn’t know what the possibilities were.”