I was reminded this morning of the October 2020 incident at Qatar Airport where a number of Australian women were taken off a Qatar Airways plane and involuntarily subjected to invasive gynaecological searches when a newborn baby was found in the toilets at the airport terminal.
The sorry story, if you need reminding, is here:
It appears both that neither the Australian government, aside from the initial noises of outrage at this incident, and Qatar Airways, who were responsible for the safety of those passengers at the time, are taking this matter particularly seriously.
No one has been punished (beyond a metaphorical slap on the wrist for one official) and no one has been compensated, with Qatar Airways apparently dismissive of the claims of those passengers as ‘lacking merit’.
I do feel that this is wrong, and that Australia, both through its government, and its broader community, need to take steps to make the displeasure felt at this violation of a number of Australian women by Qatari officials more widely known to the authorities in Qatar.
There are three measures that I think should be taken.
The first is for Qatar Airways to be banned from Australian airports until they take steps to adequately compensate the women involved and issue a sincere apology. In the olden days, this could be done by the various airport related unions (eg the time Frank Sinatra was pressured into apologising – he didn’t – to Australian female journalists in 1974 by having unions place bans on flights carrying him out of the country). But these days, unions are rather toothless, and it would be up to the Australian government to show some backbone and impose such a sanction.
The second relates to the 2022 Soccer World Cup, which is widely believed to have been awarded to Qatar in circumstances involving (to be more tactful than I am known for) somewhat questionable probity. Assuming the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup (and as I loathe soccer, I fervently hope they do not), it would be good for soccer’s governing body in Australia to make a stand on principle against both the bribery which resulted in Qatar getting the hosting rights, and the 2020 Qatar Airport incident, by announcing a boycott of the Qatar World Cup and keeping the team home. That would also show that Australian soccer is no longer a soft touch for sports washing.
The third measure is up to the board of the Sydney Swans. Qatar Airways is one of their major sponsors (as is not surprising when we examine the practise of sports washing). The Swans are also a team which has worked hard to become female friendly, having a large female supporter base, as befits a team which has fitted into a boutique middle class niche market in Sydney:
I think the Sydney Swans need to man up and make a statement against the misogynistic behaviour of their major sponsor, especially as they have a responsibility to their female supporters. The 2020 Qatar Airport Incident cannot be easily excused. Qatar Airways needs to offer meaningful compensation to its victims.