QATAR (AFP) — Female passengers flying from Qatar were subjected to invasive searches after a premature baby was found abandoned in an airport bathroom, in procedures the Australian government on Monday described as “grossly disturbing” and “offensive”.
A number of women, including from Australia, were removed from their flight and examined for signs of childbirth after the baby was found in a bathroom at Hamad International in the Qatari capital.
Australia’s government on Monday condemned the October 2 incident, which only came to light after Australian passengers spoke out, and said concerns had been lodged with Qatar.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events. It is not something that I have ever heard of occurring in my life,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
A source in Doha briefed on the incident told AFP that officials “were forcing women to undergo invasive body searches, basically forced Pap smears,” an internal examination of the cervix.
Passenger Wolfgang Babeck told AFP women returned to his flight from Doha to Sydney in a “shell-shocked” state.
“All of them were upset, some were angry, one was crying, but basically nobody could believe what happened,” the commercial lawyer said.
That flight, Qatar Airways’ QR908 to Sydney, was four hours late departing Doha as a result, according to air traffic website Flightradar24. It is not clear how many flights were involved.
In an official statement, Doha’s Hamad International airport confirmed a broad outline of events.
“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 statement said.
“The newborn infant remains unidentified, but is safe under the professional care of medical and social workers,” it said.
Qatar practices a strict form of Islamic law, with stiff penalties applied to women who fall pregnant or bear children outside marriage.
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