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Wong contacts Qatar government over 2020 invasive searches

written by Jake Nelson | September 6, 2023

Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. (Image: Hamad International Airport)

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has spoken to the Qatari government regarding the 2020 invasive search incident at Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

Minister Wong’s office confirmed she had discussed the incident, in which 13 Australian women were forced to remove their underwear for invasive genital exams, in a phone call with Qatar’s PM and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani on Monday.

“The Minister initiated the call to discuss a range of bilateral matters, including in relation to the Al Hamad airport incident, and multilateral issues ahead of the UN General Assembly later this month,” the Minister’s office said.

The incident, which drew widespread international condemnation, involved 13 women aboard Qatar Airways flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney who were asked to leave the plane to be escorted to ambulances for the invasive check, apparently carried out because staff found a premature baby abandoned in a bathroom.

Five of the women have sued the airline and the Qatari government, which owns Qatar Airways, in the Federal Court, saying they were left traumatised and received no personal apology or compensation, and that the Australian government had “done little to advance [their] cause”.


The Statement of Claim filed to the NSW Registry of the Federal Court in October 2022 detailed the horrific abuse the women claim to have suffered.

Four of the five claimants were personally subjected to the invasive checks, while a fifth was ordered off the aircraft by armed staff despite being 73 at the time and legally blind.

“Each of the Applicants has suffered and/or continues to suffer from anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), and/or other psychological effects,” read the claim.

Legal firm Marque Lawyers, which is overseeing the claim, said in a statement to Australian Aviation last year, “After two years of trying to sit down with the State of Qatar and resolve the matter amicably, this group of teachers, nurses and artists were left with no alternative but to take on this David and Goliath battle.

“Marque is proud to represent the group.”

The claim suggests that Qatar Airways is liable under the Montreal Convention.

Aside from the 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.

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