A group of Australian women who were subjected to invasive gynaecological searches in Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha, Qatar, last year are set to take legal action against Qatari officials after a year of being ignored.
On October 2, 2020, flight QR908 was due to depart from DOH at 20:30 local time but was delayed for three hours after a newborn was found abandoned in the terminal bathroom. 18 women on the flight, including 13 Australian nationals, were called to disembark the aircraft without any explanation. They were then allegedly subjected to an invasive strip search without their consent, which sparked widespread reactions globally.
This included a tweet from Qatar’s Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani saying that what took place “does not represent Qatar’s laws or values.”
We regret the unacceptable treatment of the female passengers at HIA. I assure you that we will hold those responsible for these acts to account. What took place does not represent Qatar’s laws or values. We will undertake all measures to prevent a recurrence.
— خالد بن خليفة آل ثاني (@KBKAlThani) October 30, 2020
Seven of the Australian women in the group are being represented by Damian Sturzaker from Sydney-based firm Marque Lawyers, who told three outlets, including the Sydney Morning Herald, that their requests for a dialogue were “being ignored.”
The group sent a letter to the Qatari embassy in August 2021 and received no response. Sturzaker said he had written to state-owned Qatar Airways, the Qatar Embassy in Canberra and Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, accusing them of assault, battery and deprivation of the women’s liberty.
Qatar Airways responded to the women’s letter of demand, which was published by local media. In the letter, the airline said that, “Your request that Qatar Airways engages in dialogue and/or mediation regarding the matters raised in the letter is respectfully declined on the basis that a claim against Qatar Airways has no merit.”
Sturzaker said the lawsuit would be filed in Australia against the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Airways and the country’s government, who owns both Qatar Airways and DOH airport, within weeks.
The group has set up a Go fund me page to fund the legal action.