Qatar Apologizes For “Illegal” Sexual Assault On Passengers

Filed Under: Qatar

Qatar’s government is finally starting to apologize for an incident that recently unfolded at Doha Hamad International Airport.

The terrible things that happened at Doha Airport

Earlier in the month two horrible things happened at Doha Hamad International Airport.

First of all, a newborn infant was found in an airport trash can, concealed in a plastic bag and buried underneath garbage. Fortunately the baby was discovered in time, and is now safe and receiving medical care in Doha. Suffice to say that this is simply barbaric.

Understandably authorities immediately wanted to investigate the situation, which is the responsible thing to do. However, the way they went about it was awful.

According to reports, female passengers on 10 different flights ended up getting strip searched. Not only that, but some passengers had the insides of their vaginas forcibly examined to determine if they recently gave birth. That’s sexual assault, plain and simple.

This situation has garnered international attention, especially in Australia, where it became a national story.

Qatar government reveals preliminary findings

The government of Qatar has promised a transparent investigation into the situation. I think Qatar’s initial statement about the incident added insult to injury, as the government said it “regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler caused by this action.” That was a non-apology, along the lines of “sorry if we offended you.”

Qatar’s government has today issued an updated statement with preliminary findings of the investigation. Fortunately the government is now saying the right things:

  • Standard procedures were violated with this incident, and those responsible for the illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution office
  • The government is reviewing protocols to “ensure that any violations are avoided in the future”
  • The government has expressed “sincerest apology for what some female travelers went through as a result of the measures”
  • The incident is the first of its kind at the airport, and what was done is “wholly inconsistent with Qatar’s culture and values”

Bottom line

Obviously this entire situation is tragic, from the attempted murder of a newborn to dozens of women being sexually assaulted. It’s completely inexcusable that these exams on so many female passengers happened.

On the plus side, I do at least have to acknowledge that the government is now saying the right things. We can debate the sincerity of the statement, but the government is (at least in words) taking full responsibility for what happened, apologizing unequivocally, calling the actions illegal, and prosecuting the person behind this.

To be clear, I’m not here to put on Qatar pom-poms, but the reality is that there are many other countries in the region that wouldn’t publicly take responsibility in this way. So if there’s any small silver lining, maybe it’s that this won’t happen again…

  1. Incident shouldn’t of happened to begin with, thats not the world we live in currently, the apologies are very strong and correct but that won’t make it right, see some serious compensation to the victims

  2. I agree the incident should not have happened in the first place. Also, had the female Australians not mentioned this, I doubt it would have gotten any media attention. I wonder if the women from the 10 other flights filed a complaint.

  3. “Understandable they needed to do vaginal searches in an attempt to catch the culprit.”


    You sound a little to rapey for anyone’s comfort.

  4. So you’re okay with a woman throwing a newborn away in a trash can ? How should they have gone about finding the culprit ? Canceling all departures?

  5. @ D3kingg — Um, no, literally no one is okay with throwing a newborn in the trash. We all agree that’s terrible, and that’s not what’s being discussed.

    How should they have gone about it? Oh, I don’t know, how about reviewing video footage of who entered the bathroom to start, rather than sexually assaulting everyone of a certain gender?

  6. @D3kingg when there is a theft you don’t go asking everyone nearby to empty out their pockets, and when there is an abandoned baby you don’t go sticking your fingers into random women’s vaginas to do the investigative word.

  7. I’m very sceptical of this narrative that this was a fault of some random police officer. They are just going to throw some pawn (who did what they were ordered to do) under the bus to protect country’s image. Make no mistake, this is a structural problem, not an individual mistake.

    Avoid authoritarian countries with terrible human rights record. You never know when you happen to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and become another victim of the system.

  8. I guess the should have examined men’s private parts too, this way they would not descriminate against a certain gender.

  9. This is just a variation on the ‘round up the usual suspects’ solution. First they responded with partial denials, then downplayed the severity, followed by ‘what else could we do’. Pressured, they’ve now decided to throw a few scapegoats to the wolves, not dissimilar to the Khashoggi murder in Istanbul ( unsurprising given cultural similarities, political disagreements notwithstanding).
    There are no winners in this; dreadful for the women , the mother and child.
    We can hope for change in some of the medieval views in Qatar and elsewhere in the region. More immediately let’s hope the women get any help they require and that the baby is well cared for and loved.

  10. And to put a fine a point on it, these are the kinds of things that happen when governments and religions force themselves into the realm of women’s reproductive health decisions. While we don’t know yet who or what nationality the woman was, in Qatar she’d be damned if she did have the child out of wedlock, and damned if she abandoned it somewhere like an airport bathroom. It’s not right what she did, but look at the socio-political environment she was in at that moment for context.

  11. @D3kingg
    wow…I thought you were just trolling or being sarcastic. Dude, you are messed up in your head if that’s how you think.

  12. I will now never go there (or fly on their airline). For business or personal reasons.

    Absolutely disgusting and unacceptable how they treat women.

  13. Leave it to chuckleheads like Alan in the comments to turn this into some sort of commentary on abortion. Jeez louise.

  14. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this whole scenario, but my thoughts to this point are:

    1. It’s not surprising this occurred. Some official thought it was no big deal to examine female passengers in this way…after all, their just women.

    2. BS on the explanation that they examined the females because the mother may have needed medical attention…no, they were looking for the mother to convict of a crime (I’m not saying that’s wrong, but call it as it is instead of making up some politically correct statement).

    3. Simple questioning or detective work could have eliminated several women…unless this was a miracle birth, the mother was probably fatigued after the birth. Maybe look for that in interviews? Or look for evasiveness in answering the questions? To go right to the “examination” of all women, not cool.

    Some people mention about the horror of the event. Two wrongs don’t make a right…no doubt it’s a tragedy that a baby would be “thrown out” in this way, but it doesn’t provide an excuse to randomly violate women to find the suspect.

  15. Tragic as it is , in a civilised country if for example , a baby was found in a toilet of a supermarket, you wouldn’t close it and force all the women to undergo an intrusive check
    It was unlawful apprehension and sexual assault
    Sadly in these countries women have almost no rights.
    Read what happens when domestic staff are abused and fight back As far as the local governments are concerned , it’s the overseas foreign worker who was at fault

  16. The baby was probably abandoned by a girl subjected to incest or rape..although she’s the victim she would be locked up. She probably felt the baby was a reminder of her ordeal and literally wanted it gone in the part of her abuser. The increasing interference of patriarchy and religion in womens reproductive right is going to lead to a lot more baby dumping…Muslim countries treat women like cattle as a matter of course. Don’t go there or travel through there.

  17. Ive only flown Qatar 6 times in business class, but after this im never taking my wife to this shit country. so i guess we will choose other airlines.. i guess its the only way to get these barbarians to change their ways, stop flying to their country.

  18. If I wear anywhere close to a position of power I’d close my airspace until…

    A) the people responsible were tried transparently and publicly… demanding an international court is probably going too far.
    B) All passengers were compensated for the delays caused by this
    C) All women searched were compensated for going through this. And by this I don’t mean free flights cause I doubt any of them want to go through Qatar again…

  19. These acts on women are incomprehensible, the governments of the nationals must and many are pursuing and condemning this in the strongest terms possible.

    I feel too for the poor abandoned little girl now having to grow up in a county that treats women less than second class citizens.

    oneworld should seriously be considering Qatar Airlines membership

  20. Qatar Airlines needs to put some very serious money into that apology of theirs. Even so, there’s damage there that won’t be corrected by anything they do. Losing all future western female passengers, and any accompanying males? That sounds about right.

  21. They also have severe punishment for homosexuality. Will they search all male passengers after somebody heard some noise in the male toilets. Must be funny to see a few hundred guys bending with the pants on the heels.

  22. @Anthony
    In the US, yes. In those parts of the world? Being sexually assaulted and then not being stoned afterward for infidelity is getting of easy for women.

  23. @D3kingg – that you even thought that is vile and disgusting.
    @Alan – all three of my daughters came into this world via Caesarean!

  24. @Kevin – D3kingg does vociferously support a President who brags about sexually assaulting women, so his position here is not surprising

  25. If they wanted to catch the culprit, they could have tried to narrow down the suspects (as some mentioned), or perhaps taken DNA samples – far less intrusive.

    I remember that in my secondary school, there was a string of thefts in another class. It was finally nailed when the teachers did a strip search of all students and the culprit was found to have hidden the loot under her underwear. This was more than 30 years ago. I suppose this would not be allowed nowadays.

  26. how do we make sure that the Qatari absolute monarchy royal family won’t do it again ! we should boycott them and demand to sanction the hell out of them

  27. If I were a none Qatari woman, I would absolutely take Qatar airline off my list for connecting flights and Qatar for tourism for at least a decade if not longer. What happened sounds absolutely horrifying.

  28. @D3kingg they certainly did not need to do vaginal searches to catch the culprit. They could have looked at the CCTV footage, urine tests, blood tests and even questioning if necessary. They did not need to do internal assessments at all and certainly not without these poor woman’s consent.

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