Qatar Government Statement On Airport Strip Search, Abandoned Newborn

Filed Under: Qatar

A few days ago Qatar Airways made global headlines after an abandoned newborn was found in a bathroom at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which somehow led to at least 13 Australian women being strip searched.

In particular this has caused a huge diplomatic spat between Australia and Qatar, so what does the government of the Gulf state have to say for itself?

Qatar “regrets” any distress on personal freedoms

Here’s the first official statement that Qatar’s Government Communications Office has shared about the incident:

“On 2nd October 2020, a newborn infant was found in a trash can, concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage, at Hamad International Airport (HIA). The baby girl was rescued from what appeared to be a shocking and appalling attempt to kill her. The infant is now safe under medical care in Doha.

This was the first instance of an abandoned infant being discovered in such a condition at HIA – this egregious and life-threatening violation of the law triggered an immediate search for the parents, including on flights in the vicinity of where the newborn was found. While the aim of the urgently-decided search was to prevent the perpetrators of the horrible crime from escaping, the State of Qatar regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler caused by this action.

His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar has directed that a comprehensive, transparent investigation into the incident be conducted. The results of the investigation will be shared with our international partners. The State of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety, security and comfort of all travelers transiting through the country.”

Women on 10 flights were searched, as it turns out

13 women on a flight to Australia being strip searched is bad enough, but the situation goes way beyond that. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, has now said that 10 different flights were caught up in this search. I’m surprised that this wasn’t a bigger story sooner.

My take on this Qatar situation

Let me start by saying that it’s horrifying that someone abandoned a newborn in a plastic bag underneath trash in an airport bathroom. I just can’t even begin to image… it’s beyond words. I think that’s something we can all agree on, and at least one small positive in this story is that the newborn is apparently doing well.

That aside, the question remains of how we go from an abandoned newborn to (apparently) dozens of women being strip searched to see if they may have just given birth:

  • I think the airport authorities were totally justified in preventing flights from leaving as they investigated what happened
  • Airports have a countless number of security cameras, so presumably they had a way of determining who had entered or exited the bathroom around the time that the baby was abandoned, so that they could at least narrow down suspects
  • It’s not clear whether authorities believed that someone gave birth in the bathroom, or that someone brought the newborn to the airport in order to abandon them (if so, were they originating in Doha or connecting?)
  • Keep in mind that Qatar Airways doesn’t allow expectant mothers that are more than 39 weeks pregnant to fly, and requires a doctor’s note starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy; in other words, if the passenger appeared far along in her pregnancy at check-in and gave birth in Doha, presumably the airline should be able to narrow this down if documentation was checked correctly

Who on earth thought that the way to start investigating this situation was to inspect the private parts of every woman departing on a flight? Who authorized this? How did the conversation go?

“Boss, how should we start to figure out who may have abandoned the baby?”
“Let’s start by strip searching every woman who has a flight out of here.”

This is unbelievably primitive, a violation of basic human rights, and arguably sexual assault.

The government of Qatar says it will be transparent with international partners about its investigation. I’m skeptical, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Personally I think Qatar’s statement is a bit of a non-apology, along the lines of “I’m sorry if you’re offended.”

The country simply “regrets any distress of infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler caused by this action.” It doesn’t acknowledge that its approach was incorrect and dehumanizing. Final results of the investigation aside, those who were strip searched, especially without any actual cause beyond their gender, deserve an apology, full stop.

Bottom line

The government of Qatar has issued its first statement about the recent incident at Doha Hamad International Airport. It’s horrible to think that a newborn was abandoned in the trash in an airport bathroom, though fortunately the newborn is apparently doing fine.

What remains to be seen is how it was decided to strip search the women on as many as 10 different flights to figure out who may have given birth.

The country needs to perform a quick and transparent investigation if it wants to continue to be a global hub that people are comfortable traveling through.

What do you make of the explanation from Qatar’s government?

  1. You keep using the term “strip search”, implying something far less outrageous than it was, ie the forcible insertion of digits into the genitalia. It’s NOT someone having a quick look in your undies. There was no informed consent here; it was blatant sexual assault. It’s more than a little off-putting that you don’t recognise it for what it is.

  2. Also the newborn wasn’t simply abandoned. As the statement said, it was attempted murder through asphyxiation with a plastic bag. Abandonment is just one aspect of it.
    That being said, they should not have gone finding the perpetrator that way.

  3. Paolo, get a grip and stop putting words in Lucky’s mouth (and brain). And reread the post while you’re at it.

  4. It doesn’t have to be a passenger and it could also very well be an airport employee…
    The logistics for a passenger seem mind-boggling.

  5. If this happened in a western airport, this would be breaking news everywhere and the outrage a thousand times larger. But of course cultural relativism comes to the rescue, as often shown on this blog where de facto flag carrier airlines from countries where women are treated like cattle and homosexuals persecuted with death sentences are advertised while every single stupid trumper event on some plane in the US generates an “orange man bad”-article to generate more clicks. It is sickening.

  6. ArnoldB it is news everywhere. And so is the outrage.

    I read about this on at least 4 of the news sites I read (including 2 from the US) before it appeared on any of the travel blogs that I read.

  7. Outrageous.
    Notice that in their concluding statement
    “The State of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety, security and comfort of all travelers transiting through the country.”
    “privacy” was not mentioned.

  8. Somebody ATTEMPTED TO MURDER A NEWBORN CHILD via suffocation and burying them alive under a pile of garbage… and instead people are outraged that 13 women were inconvenienced while trying to find the culprit.

    The world has lost all decency. If you are more offended by a strip search than attempted murder please give your head a shake. These are probably the same people who don’t wear masks either BuT mUh RiGhTs!!!

  9. @jay
    Read other news media reports
    From Australia ABC news and the Bangkok Post.
    @Paolo is right. @walter Breamer is right.
    @Lucky is less accurate.

    The descriptions of what happened is of a sexual assualt and is more graffic than a strip search. One woman reports when she refused to self inspect the inside of her Vagina in front of the female nurse, the nurse then forcibly examed inside her Vagina to see if she recently gave birth.
    Human Rights watch response to this story says
    “Forced gynecological examinations can amount to sexual assault”
    Lucky has been such a indepth reporter in so many other less serrious airline news stories.
    His readers deserve to know why he chooses to downplay the sexual attack on all these women.
    Is Qatar Airways a sponser of this website? Would the reporting be different if it was United Airlines?
    Let your readers make informed decisions. You dont even see this story on TPG, are they also on the payroll of Qatar Airways?

  10. Disgusting. Even as a fan of this brillant airline, a trip via DOH is out of the game for me after this brutal action against all human rights.

  11. “The State of Qatar regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler…”

    Non apology. This was Government sanctioned and approved sexual assault. They’d do it again tomorrow without hesitation. Please do not understate the severity of what happened here. This was not a strip search, it was a sexual assault. There is a big difference.

    The women on these ten flights who were violated have no rights or recourse. Australia and other countries acting in solidarity should ban Qatar Airlines until there is justice for these women with guarantees and protections in place that it will never happen again. In any event, I will never fly them again.

  12. The Qataris did everything right except they are idiots to not know that a pregnant woman’s belly does not shrink immediately after giving birth. A woman still looks somewhat pregnant. So of the people they examined, they could probably eliminate 14 of the 18 just by that. However, if they did DNA tests, the flights would have to be cancelled for a few days, which would be a mess. Can you imagine JFK being closed for 3 days for this? No.

  13. Thirteen female foreign nationals were raped during a layover. Countries have literally gone to war over less.

  14. @julian
    This wasn’t a strip search. This was rape. If the qataris had stuck their fingers up your a$$ youd feel different. Youre a douche.

  15. @Julian we can be outraged by both. And these women were not inconvenienced they were sexually assaulted (full stop).

    That being said what do you expect from a country that is the banking capital for terror organizations, basically enslaves immigrants from other countries, and doesn’t practice equal rights for all. We won’t get an apology and nothing will change anytime soon. It’s sickening that they allowed this to happen.

  16. The forced exams sound barbaric. There is rapid DNA test technology available that can provide a match within two hours testing samples in batches using a portable machine (andecom if anyone wants details). It was designed specifically for law enforcement use – sexual assault cases, confirming family relationships for immigration, etc.

    This system has been around for at least 10 years and is not super expensive – no excuse for not using it. Doesn’t have to be permanently based at the airport – it could be driven there if needed.

  17. @Julian
    So I guess you would be more than happy to submit to a colonoscopy or other invasive medical procedure every time a heinous crime is committed somewhere nearby?

  18. Paolo (and others) are correct, Lucky is underplaying this.

    I wasn’t exactly keen on transiting Qatar before this but will be steering well clear as a result of this. There is a very justified anger about this in Australia and Qatar Airways will struggle here in the future.

  19. “Inconvenienced”, Julian? This was not being inconvenienced. This was being sexually assaulted.

    As other women have said, I won’t be flying QR again and I’ve warned my son and DIL as well.

  20. Dr. G, you’re right; privacy was not mentioned but safety was. I think most women, if not men, too, would agree that safety would cover not being sexually assaulted.

  21. Thank you Julian, I’ve got the same feeling.

    I can’t believe that people start calling it rape already first I thought that’s irony. It was a medical examination by female doctors.
    Yes, it was forced and unpleasant for sure, but stop exaggerating for God’s sake.
    Nobody was killed or even hurt.

    Qatar had to do something fast and this wasn’t the best solution for sure, but it wasn’t a life changing event for these women. Or at least it shouldn’t.
    This shitstorn is just a starting point so these women can sue qatar because they claim their life has ended now.

  22. Likely wouldn’t happen in the US but people need to quit imposing their values, beliefs and legal system on other countries. If you travel to a Muslim country you give up many things you can freely do in the US. If you don’t like it never leave the US.

    As for comments about the women suing – good luck w that one. I seriously doubt a court in that country would rule in their favor and if they get a ruling in Australia it will just be ignored.

  23. @julian. Absolutely agree, only murdering a baby is a nth times worse. If you do not want the baby find a way to allow it to survive. @Steven, which comments appall you.

    Horrible and sad

  24. @Julian and those with his point of view. You guys are nuts. A forced pelvic examination is sexual assault. Your sounding like Larry Nassar‘a attorneys or something. Human rights should not be violated because a crime has been committed. Also the gender of the doctor has no bearing on whether or not it’s assault.

    @ derreisende no one except those women have to contend with how it effects them. Some of these women could be mentally scared for life. Consent is everything. It actually sickens me that you don’t understand how it may negatively effect a women. Of course these women were mentally hurt by what happened.

  25. I lived in Qatar for a while, and have lived elsewhere in the region. We all know this is about sleazy men, and double standards, with zero respect for women. This is the region, the culture, if you want to call it that.
    Every time some westerner gets arrested in Dubai for holding hands in public, or kissing, or similar, there is an outcry – how could they? But you must remember that when you fly through a country, you are subject to local laws, no matter how much you disagree with them, or the culture. It is for that reason that on my regular trips to Australia I avoid the Gulf airlines.

  26. I am not sure why a simple blood test or urine test wasn’t used. The worst thing of course was the lack of disclosure and information. How many times do you ever hear people say that they are glad that they are kept in the dark as to when there is a problem that concerns them directly? Secondly, if you have recently given birth, and am about to dash off on a plane departing to another country, there are usually a few clues, and they are often pretty obvious. My guess is that whoever deposited the baby wasn’t the mother at all, but somebody else in the equation.

  27. I do not really believe the Qatari absolute monarchy royal family !! they abuse human rights on daily basis !! I really hope they get sanctioned the hell out of them and we women should boycott Qatar Airways

  28. I really dont understand what’s the fuss all about? It’s very normal, I’m the CEO of the biggest-the bigger the better, size does matter- airline in the world,Queef Airways, and in my company , everyone except me is guilty until proven innocent !

  29. @Charles S
    It was an unpleasant medical examination without consent. Not less. Not more.
    It was no rape and comparing this to rape is a colossal cheek for every actual rape victim.
    It’s just ridiculous how people exaggerating every incident these days.

    I’m generally with you. This wasn’t ok, this was messy, and *maybe* there should have better solutions to this situation. But I don’t know as I wasn’t in the situation of the Qatari person in charge. I don’t think that the commentators here thought about all the aspects the Qatari hat to consider in this situation. They basically had just minutes to decide what to do and they valued it higher to find the mother, which I can understand. And they valued it higher to not stop the planes for hours or days until blood test results would be available. Which I can also understand.
    In that case, the women would have been detained for hours or days, which would also have caused a shit storm.
    So there was no perfect solution in this situation.

    To me, most of these comments seem to be arrogant, one dimensional, lacking realistic alternatives, and are thought too short.
    Just so many brave Captain Hindsight…

  30. This is an international airport w/ flights departing every minute and (although unlikely) it is possible that the perp was on an outbound international flight. They do not have time to do a security video analysis while flights are departing. Therefor an immediate ground stop with interrogation is appropriate although not to the level they went. I’m not sure they have standard operating guidelines for something like this but a search level similar to ‘manual’ screening at security or the SSSS level screening before boarding would have sufficed with less controversy.

  31. i cannot believe that in 2020 a country can have officers of its government sexually assault random women on a flight and completely get away with it

  32. @derreisende
    Penetration (vaginal in this case) without consent is sexual assault. It’s the literal definition of sexual assault. Not difficult to understand that, but feel free to go consult a dictionary if you’re still uncertain.

    And you must not have read all of the comments if you think no one has offered alternative solutions. Checking a few hours of surveillance footage would take no more than a few hours if you only have one person doing it, that’s less time and resources than were used to assault passengers whose only crime was being nearby. Secondly, also as previously mentioned, there are very rapid DNA tests that give results within a couple of hours. Again, within the time frame of the delay they required to assault passengers. Third, there are plenty of other indications that someone has given birth recently. A standard urine-based pregnancy test will give a positive result up to 5 weeks after birth. Fourth, some very basic investigation into those passengers, such as when they checked-in, if they’re transit passengers or not, etc, could immediately eliminate a lot of people. Fifth, speak to people working in the area and ask if they saw or heard anything.
    There are plenty of other things they could have done, which would have been at least as effective, or, considering by all accounts they haven’t found the mother, possibly more effective. There was zero reason to go straight to penetrative exams of every woman of child-bearing age (and non-penetrative exams of older women) within the vicinity.

  33. @Zymm
    Arrogant, again.
    I’m no doctor and I guess commenter here are no doctors as well.
    You know who are doctors? The women who screened the women.
    Maybe the signs you mentioned are not sufficient.
    Maybe the urine test would give 5 positive results because 4 other women were pregnant and 1 other women gave birth 3 weeks ago.
    That wouldn’t help at all but produce even more trouble.
    Maybe there are fast dna test like that. Maybe the Qatari didn’t know about it. Maybe those were not available.
    Maybe there were 5 other reasons I don’t know about at all.
    And you as well because you weren’t there and you weren’t in charge.
    It always so easy to be clever in hindsight or from a distance.

    I just hate the arrogance of all these brave smart phone warriors.

  34. The mother of the baby left in trash can at Doh is apparently found. Asian national…. And police officers will be prosecuted. While I applaud the qatari governments effort, it is sad that they had to use a continent name to shame the mother. It is inherently racist but I guess they don’t understand why mentioning Asian national would be a bad idea. Yet they don’t mention the nationality of the police officers. Ah

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