Firstly, I have to admire my colleague Peter Needham for his accurate report of the situation in Qatar recently, regarding the baby found in a bathroom at Hamad International Airport and the subsequent searches of women on board a flight heading to Australia and you can check out his article CLICK HERE

Other media and politicians in their sensationalist style, seem to give the impression that only Australian women were removed from the aircraft and searched, with Peter quite rightly clarifying that all adult female passengers were asked to leave the aircraft to be searched and without doubt it was a frightening and horrendous situation for all the women involved.

It is fully understood and appreciated that the removal and search may not have been undertaken in the manner it would have occurred in Australia, in fact, it would never have occurred in Australia, but it has to be remembered this incident occurred in a country where the rules are very different indeed and while we may not like them, if we go to that country then we have to accept the rules or simply not go there.

For those of you that may not be aware of the rules in Qatar, which is a very strict Islamic nation, , it is illegal for an unmarried woman to be pregnant, with those who know the middle east well and have lived or do live there, know, are fully aware and accept that the rules, processes and punishments are very different to those in Australia, with Qatar being amongst the strictest.  Check this out for Human Rights in Qatar CLICK HERE

The consequences in Qatar, for a single woman being pregnant, irrespective of her nationality, include jail and deportation, and even physical punishment by lashings in some extreme circumstances, with in Qatar, Zina laws also criminalizing unmarried sex based on Islamic legal tradition that classifies sex outside of marriage, pregnancy out of wedlock, and adultery as crimes that are also punishable by imprisonment of up to one year.  Muslim offenders are also given an additional penalty of flogging, while married Muslims may be sentenced to death by stoning and in Qatar, both men and women can be prosecuted and tried for the crime of Zina.

For that reason, women who are not married and find themselves pregnant while living in Qatar are advised to go to their home country, or to another country, which is what may have happened here.  Of course, we do not know whether the mother of the child found was single or not, but it is imagined and under their laws we have to respect reasonable that the Qataris wanted to conduct a full a investigation of what may have been a very serious crime in their country, before any potential suspects left the country.  We may not like that or the manner in which the investigation was undertaken, but it is their country not ours and in their country visitors are required to abide by and accept their laws and rules and the consequences if broken.

With the Qatari Government report of the incident apparently available shortly, some might say that it is premature that without having the report from the Qatari Government, the Australian Government has registered “serious concerns” with Qatar and as Peter points out Qatar the state, that is, not Qatar Airways as the airline is not suggested to have instigated the incident, with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne saying, “The Australian Government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport”.

She goes further to say, “The advice that has been provided indicates that the treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.“

The issue is that quite rightly in Australia it would be deemed “offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent”, but it appears it may not be in Qatar, with the rules in Qatar the rules very different along with many other countries, all of which we have the freedom to decide whether we visit or not, but if we do we have to accept we have abide by their rules and processes.

It also appears that an Australian woman who was subjected to the “invasive” search told the ABC she was considering legal action and was also willing to join any class action, but it will be interesting to hear where any action can be pursued, as it appears what transpired, for us terrible though it was, appears to be legal in Qatar and as the offence did not occur in Australia, unlikely it could be pursued in Australia.

Let’s see what the Qatari Government report says.

A report by John Alwyn-Jones