A week ago (seems a lot longer than that, yeah?), Qatar Airways made international news…for all the wrong reasons. In fact, I didn’t post anything about the story when details were first released because the foundation of the story seemed bizarre (to say the least). But it’s 2020 and ‘bizarre’ appears to be a common theme for the year.
I caution you, this is graphic…
AIRPORT STRIP SEARCH
Here is the background of the story…
- In early October 2020, a newborn baby was found in a plastic bag under some garbage in the bathroom at the Doha International Airport
- The flight from Doha to Sydney (somehow) became the focus of an investigation. The flight was temporarily delayed and;
- 13 Australian women were strip searched in an attempt to determine who was the mother
But it goes much much deeper than that. If you want/need more details, the New York Times published a preliminary article, to which the Qatar Government Communications Office released a statement (below), and then the New York Times published a follow-up article with the grim details.
And again, it’s graphic, involves dozens of women, and a lot more flights than just the one going to Sydney.
THE ORIGINAL STATEMENT FROM QATAR
Let me first say, as a husband and father, this hurts my heart and is beyond words.
My feelings aside, after the passengers returned to Australia and the details were reveled, you can imagine this incident has caused a bit of tension between Qatar and Australia.
Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, said the invasive treatment of the women was “unacceptable” and “appalling” and his government would ensure it would never be repeated, according to The Guardian.
And then the State of Qatar released a statement saying:
On 2nd October 2020, a newborn infant was found in a trash can, concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage, at Hamad International Airport (HIA). The baby girl was rescued from what appeared to be a shocking and appalling attempt to kill her. The infant is now safe under medical care in Doha.
This was the first instance of an abandoned infant being discovered in such a condition at HIA – this egregious and life-threatening violation of the law triggered an immediate search for the parents, including on flights in the vicinity of where the newborn was found. While the aim of the urgently-decided search was to prevent the perpetrators of the horrible crime from escaping, the State of Qatar regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler caused by this action.
His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar has directed that a comprehensive, transparent investigation into the incident be conducted. The results of the investigation will be shared with our international partners. The State of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety, security and comfort of all travelers transiting through the country.
…which I question whether is an apology or not?
In the press release, the State of Qatar “regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedoms of any traveler caused by this action,” but I didn’t see the word apologize (or anything resembling it) anywhere in the statement. Am I wrong?
*Note: I bolded any and all of the above statements.
THE NEW STATEMENT FROM QATAR
Well, the Qatar Government Communications Office released a new statement that includes the word “apologize” and the preliminary findings. It says:
The preliminary investigation into the attempted murder of a newborn baby found in a very serious condition at Hamad International Airport (HIA), and the subsequent procedures taken by the authorities at the airport, including examining a number of female passengers, revealed that standard procedures were violated. Those responsible for these violations and illegal actions have been referred to the Public Prosecution Office.
Following the directives of His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, specialised task forces are reviewing and identifying any potential gaps in the procedures and protocols followed at Hamad International Airport, in order to address them and ensure that any violations are avoided in the future.
His Excellency the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior expressed the Government of the State of Qatar’s sincerest apology for what some female travelers went through as a result of the measures.
This incident is the first of its kind at HIA, which has served tens of millions of passengers without any issues like this before. What took place is wholly inconsistent with Qatar’s culture and values. Qatar is fully committed to the safety and security of all travelers arriving to or transiting through HIA.
*Note: Again, I bolded any and all of the above statements.
Generally, I don’t focus on articles like this, but I thinks it’s important to recognize that airlines are a business and have largely become “westernized” because a financial bottom line is important to survival.
However, this “western veil” can also lead passengers to forget that several airlines originate in countries where human rights (or lack there of) come at varying levels and entail risk, which is important to highlight.
To be clear, I think this incident is egregious and unacceptable. Anyone that knows me, knows that I love Doha and Qatar Airways and was a fan long before the hype and accolades, but this incident definitely gives me pause to flying with the carrier or transiting through Doha.
What do you think about this incident and statements?