7 Australian women to sue Qatar govt for ‘invasive’ strip search at Doha airport
Seven Australian women who were strip-searched and forced to undergo invasive gynaecological examinations at the Doha airport last year are mulling to sue the Qatar government.
Damian Sturzaker, from Sydney-based Marque Lawyers, said on Monday that his clients were seeking compensation “for the fact that they were effected at the time and continue to suffer”.
The women alleged that they were ordered to disembark from the flight to Sydney and were checked whether they had given birth after a baby was found in a plastic bag bin at Hamad Airport in October 2020.
Describing their experience as “state-sanctioned assault”, the women said they did not give consent to the examinations and were not given explanations for what was happening to them.
The women, aged from their early 30s to late 50s, claimed that the examinations lasted about five minutes before they were escorted back to their flight.
The incident came to the fore when the women reported the matter to police after landing in Australia, sparking public attention and condemnation from several nations.
After the Australian government decried the incident, Qatar apologised and handed a suspended jail term for one airport official.
At the time, Qatar's Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani tweeted an apology saying, “We regret the unacceptable treatment of the female passengers... What took place does not reflect Qatar's laws or values.”
But the women say their cases have been ignored since then.
One of the women, who did not wish to be named, told the BBC she was “subjected to the most horrifically invasive physical exam”.
“I was certain that I was either going to be killed by one of the many men that had a gun, or that my husband on the plane was going to be killed,” she said in a statement from her lawyer.
Meanwhile, the airline has denied liability while the Qatar government said it was considering the women’s claim, Sturzaker said.
“We don’t hold out much hope in relation to anything other than a rejection of the claim,” Sturzaker said, indicating that the claim would go to trial.