Doha – The government of Qatar made its mea culpa Wednesday for the forced gynecological examinations undergone by several women at the Doha airport after the discovery of an abandoned newborn, saying it regrets the violation of individual freedoms and the distress inflicted on these travelers.
“Even if the aim of these urgently-decided examinations was to prevent the flight of the perpetrators of a horrible crime, the State of Qatar regrets the distress or the violation of individual freedoms that this action may have caused to travelers.“, indicates a statement published on a government site.
On October 2, agents at Doha Airport disembarked female passengers from a flight to Sydney, then forcing them to undergo gynecological examinations to try to determine if any of them had. recently gave birth, after the discovery of a newborn baby abandoned in the toilets of the terminal.
Australian authorities later said they learned that several other flights were also affected.
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Qatari Prime Minister Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said in a statement that an investigation “complete and transparent“will be conducted.
He added that Qatar was “committed to ensuring the safety and comfort of all passengers passing through the country“.
The incident sparked a diplomatic row between Australia and Doha, with Canberra firmly protesting the treatment of its female citizens.
On Wednesday, it emerged that the number of affected planes was greater than initially assumed. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told Parliament that women found “aboard ten planes in total“had been subjected to forced gynecological examinations, a situation she described as”seriously disturbing“and”rude“.
“We found out yesterday“by the Australian diplomatic mission in Doha,” Payne said.
She added that 18 women, including thirteen Australians, were affected and others “Foreign nationalsAccording to AFP information, a French woman aboard one of these planes is among the victims.
– Tarnished reputation –
The Australian minister did not provide the destinations of the other flights concerned.
Australian officials have said Canberra is working with other countries to jointly voice their concern over the abuses. But they refused to name these countries to respect the privacy of victims.
Ms Payne admitted that she had not spoken to her Qatari counterpart, adding that she wanted to “see report“on this incident, expected during the week.
This scandal could be a blow to the efforts made by the rich Gulf country to improve its image before the World Cup-2022.
A small Gulf country very rich in gas, Qatar has acquired international prestige through investments in the media, sport and culture. In 2022, the emirate will be the first Arab country to host the FIFA World Cup.
With its ultramodern fleet and luxurious services, the national carrier Qatar Airways is one of the most prestigious in the world and its reputation could also suffer from the incident, believes Mark Gell, founder of Reputation Edge, a consulting firm in picture.
Australia is a particularly important market for Qatar Airways. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the company served six cities across the country.
At the height of the crisis, it even boasted of repatriating Australians in distress when its competitors had pinned their fleet to the ground.
In Qatar, officially, sexual relations and childbirth outside marriage are punishable by prison terms. The conservative Muslim monarchy still struggles to silence criticism of violations of rights and freedoms.