Barely a month before the start of the soccer World Cup in Qatar, the negative headlines about the desert emirate don't stop. For years, the country has been criticized for its disastrous human and women's rights situation, and it has also had to put up with accusations of being anti-queer and systematically exploiting foreign migrant workers.
Five Australian women are now making serious allegations against the state of Qatar and its airline Qatar Airways. As several media reports unanimously, the Australians have filed a lawsuit in the New South Wales Supreme Court over an incident that happened in 2020.
As reported by the "huffpost.com" portal and the British "Guardian", among others, the women are suing for damages because of "unlawful" physical contact" and the psychological consequences, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.
On October 2, 2020, women on ten planes were initially arrested on the tarmac at Doha Airport and forced off the plane by Qatari security forces at gunpoint and without reason, including the five Australian women who were en route to Sydney .
The women were taken to the tarmac in ambulances, told to remove their underwear and had to undergo an invasive compulsory gynecological exam. The background to the operation is said to have been the discovery of a newborn child in a plastic bag in the airport waiting room. In order to find the mother, the investigations were ordered.
The abandonment of infants is a common occurrence in the country. Abortions are strictly forbidden, the birth of an illegitimate child is usually punished with 12 months imprisonment for the mother.
The applicants emphasize that they were not informed that they were to be examined or why, nor were they given the opportunity to object to the examination. The lawsuit, filed with the New South Wales Supreme Court, says three of the five women were subjected to "unlawful physical contact".
"Each of the plaintiffs has suffered...from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological effects. The women have incurred medical expenses and some have suffered economic loss from being on sick leave due to the mental health impact of the events." .
State officials initially tried to appease the case after the case. They stressed that the investigations were "completely incompatible with Qatar's culture and values". After a series of controversies, officials issued an apology. An airport official who initiated the investigation was arrested and eventually given a suspended sentence.
Australia filed an official complaint after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denounced the "appalling" investigations. Secretary of State Marise Payne called the measures "deeply disturbing [and] offensive".
Attorney Damian Sturzaker, who is representing the women suing, told the Guardian last week that he was "proud to stand with this group of courageous women who have felt compelled to take action against the Qatari government after they... seriously violated human rights".
Facing the potentially devastating economic and reputational damage in the wake of the incident, Qatar vowed to ensure the "safety and security" of passengers going forward, without giving further details.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani acknowledged that standard safety protocols had been breached and "sincerely apologized for what some female travelers had to go through".
The newborn, discovered on the day of the search, survived and was handed over to social services. The baby's parents were later located. They come from "Asian countries," officials said. In Qatar, this usually means South Asian countries, from which a large number of migrant workers come to the country.
The controversial World Cup in Qatar will start in less than a month. Since 2010, guest and migrant workers, mainly from India and Pakistan, have been systematically exploited in the construction of the stadiums. According to the human rights organization Amnesty International, at least 15,000 people have died on the World Cup construction sites to date.
Quellen: "The Guardian", "Huffpost.com", "The New York Times", "Der Spiegel", "Lawyers Weekly"