A woman on board a Qatar Airways flight carrying 12 other Australian women, some of whom were forced to take vaginal examinations, thought it was a hostage situation at first.
Speaking to ABC News, Ffranses Ingram, 73, said she would have struck officials with her walking cane, had she known the ordeal her younger women passengers would endure on their stopover at Haman International Airport.
At least 18 Australian women, among other plane passengers from multiple Qatar Airways flights, were subjected to invasive internal examinations while authorities searched for the mother of a newborn baby found at the airport. According to ABC News, the baby was found in a bin.
The incident is under investigation, with Australian authorities demanding answers from Qatari officials. An official report is expected within the week, according to Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
In the meantime, however, disturbing incident reports from affected passengers are emerging.
Ingram, who spoke to the national broadcaster and is legally blind, said: “I find I’m getting more outraged every day now, and more frightened and more concerned for the girls on the plane than I had been at the time.
“Because I didn’t realise how far the examination had gone on some of them. It really is absolutely appalling and dreadful and disgusting.”
The 73-year-old, who was not forced to undergo an invasive examination, is furious with Qatar Airways, telling ABC News that the experience made her question whether she would fly into the region again.
“I thought that as a Qatar passenger, I would have been protected by the airline and as an international traveller I was protected,” she said.
“But we weren’t. We were dragged off the plane like the blinking Petrovs [former Soviet Union spies] here in Sydney years ago.”
News of Ingram’s disturbing experience comes after Senator Marise Payne revealed in a Sentate estimates that women from as many as 10 flights had been subjected to invasive medical examinations, in an incident in Doha that occurred on 2 October.
On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne confirmed the women had contacted the Australian government at the time of the incident. She said the government had taken up the matter with Qatar’s ambassador. She expects a report from Qatari authorities this week.
“This is a grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” Payne told the media.
“It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context. We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities.”
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