| 8 December 2021, Wednesday |

Women to sue Qatar over invasive examinations at Doha airport: Sydney-based lawyer

A group of women who were subjected to invasive gynecological searches at Doha airport will sue Qatari authorities, seeking redress for an ordeal that drew international condemnation, their lawyer told AFP on Monday.

Late last year, women on 10 Qatar Airways flights from Doha, including 13 Australians, were subjected to the examinations as authorities searched for the mother of a newborn found abandoned in an airport bathroom.

The incident sparked outrage and raised questions about Qatar’s treatment of women as the Gulf state prepares to welcome thousands of foreign visitors for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Seven affected passengers are planning legal action, according to Damian Sturzaker of Sydney-based Marque Lawyers, to “send a message to Qatari authorities that you can’t treat women… in this manner.”

“The group of women experienced enormous distress on the evening in question, now just over a year ago, and they continue to experience distress, ill effects, and trauma as a result of what occurred,” he told AFP.

Sturzaker stated that the women were seeking a formal apology, compensation, and protection for future airport passengers.

Qatar is an ultra-conservative Muslim monarchy where sex and childbirth outside of marriage are illegal and punishable by imprisonment.

The country has struggled to persuade critics that its promises on women’s rights, labor relations, and democracy are credible in the run-up to the World Cup.

Faced with potentially devastating commercial and reputational damage as a result of the incident, Qatar vowed to ensure passengers’ future “safety and security.”

The prime minister of the country also apologized, and an airport police officer who oversaw the searches was reportedly convicted.

However, Sturzaker stated that the women were not informed of any changes to airport procedures and that their attempts to seek mediation were futile.

He went on to say that they now wanted to highlight their case ahead of the FIFA tournament to ensure that other travelers were well-informed before visiting Qatar.

“They should be aware that, despite the guise of a highly developed, highly modernized airport and national carrier, these events have occurred and there is nothing to prevent them from occurring again,” he said.

Qatar’s embassy in Canberra and Qatar Airways did not respond to requests for comment right away.

Sturzaker stated that the lawsuit against the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Airways, and the country’s government would be filed in Australia within the next few weeks.