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7 women sue Qatar over invasive strip searches at airport

People wait ahead of their flights as air traffic flow continue as normal as before despite of a land, sea and air blockade applied by Saudi-led Arabic countries, at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar on June 12, 2017 [Ahmed Youssef Elsayed Abdelrehim / Anadolu Agency]
People wait ahead of their flights at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar on 12 June 2017 [Ahmed Youssef Elsayed Abdelrehim / Anadolu Agency]

Seven women are suing the Qatari government over invasive strip searches they were subject to last year in Doha Airport.

In October 2020 armed guards ordered 18 women off a flight from Doha to Sydney and into ambulances waiting outside, reports inews.

According to a fellow passenger, Dr Wolfgang Babeck, who has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money towards their legal costs, the women thought they were being held hostage or involved in a terror incident and feared for their lives.

Outside, the women, one of whom was British, were subject to invasive gynaecological examinations which authorities say was to determine if they were linked to a newborn baby who had been abandoned in the airport toilets earlier that day.

READ: Qatar urges nationals to leave Ethiopia 'as soon as possible'

One of the women, who was travelling with her baby, was strip searched. After telling her to lie on the bed the nurse "grabbed my pants and my underwear and she stripped them. And for a second, I just think my head was about to explode," Anna said.

"It's a humiliation and an abuse of power, the breach of my human rights. No one is allowed to touch me. No one is allowed to strip me naked without my consent… and that's what happened in a major airport, one of the biggest airports in the world with a major airliner."

The women's lawyer, Damian Sturzaker, said he intends to file a case for compensation on the grounds that the women were subject to false imprisonment, assault and trespass.

"The incident was horrific for all women involved. All have experienced ongoing mental health difficulties are fearful of flying again," Sturzaker said.

Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022 and millions of people, including women, will pass through the airport. The women hope that others will not be subject to the same treatment they were.

"They should be able to expect better," Sturzaker said.

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