Employees at Doha Airport, Qatar.
KARIM JAAFAR / AFP
Qatar announced on Friday that those responsible for forced gynecological examinations undergone by female passengers at Doha airport would be prosecuted, a case which has sparked international outrage and tarnished the wealthy country's image. of the Gulf.
"Those responsible for these violations and unlawful actions have been referred to the prosecution," the government said in a statement, outlining the preliminary findings of an official investigation.
Women on ten flights from Doha were subjected to these exams after a newborn baby was found abandoned in an airport toilet on October 2.
According to Qatar, the question was whether one of them had recently given birth, after the discovery of a baby "covered in a plastic bag" and "hidden" in a toilet basket in what s. 'akin to' attempted murder '.
Australian and New Zealand victims, mainly
"The Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior has expressed the most sincere apologies to some passengers who have suffered the consequences" of the measures taken to find the mother of the newborn, the government reiterated in its press release.
Embarrassed by this affair which tarnishes its image, Qatar made its mea culpa after criticism from the countries of origin of the women concerned.
The government said on Wednesday it regretted the violations of individual freedoms and the distress inflicted on these women.
New Zealand revealed Thursday evening that one of its nationals was among the women who underwent the exams, calling the acts "completely unacceptable".
This case also provoked the ire of Australia.
According to the head of Australian diplomacy Marise Payne, 18 women, including 13 Australians, are concerned as well as other "foreign nationals".
Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger on an affected Sydney flight, said the women tested had returned "in shock".
London said two Britons were among these women and according to another source, a French woman is also among the victims.
Qatar's soft power in check
The scandal could deal a blow to the efforts made by the rich gas country of the Gulf to improve its image before the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Very rich in gas, Qatar has bought itself international prestige through investments in media, sport or culture.
In Qatar, sexual relations and childbirth outside marriage are punishable by imprisonment and, for many migrant women, deportation from the territory.
Despite its communication efforts, Qatar is not at its first image crisis.
The country is regularly criticized for the working conditions of migrant workers, especially those deployed on the World Cup sites.
Financing jihadism, support for the Muslim Brotherhood, criminalization of homosexuality: other accusations are raining down on Doha.
Qatar has also been isolated by an embargo from its Arab neighbors for three years.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accuse it of supporting extremist Islamists and preferring Iran to them, which Doha denies.
Qatar regrets forced gynecological exams after abandonment of baby
Passengers forced to undergo gynecological exam after baby abandoned at airport in Qatar