Seven women will file a lawsuit against the Qatari government and the country’s state airline over highly invasive strip-searches they were subjected to at a Doha airport last October. The plaintiffs, based in Australia, were among at least 13 women pulled off an Oct. 2, 2020, flight to Sydney and forced to undergo gynecological searches. The examinations, they said, were to determine if they’d recently given birth. A swath of more intrusive searches, Qatari authorities said in an apology last year, were triggered by the discovery of a newborn in a trash can in a terminal bathroom. Qatar, which criminalizes sex and giving birth outside of marriage for women, has seen numerous cases of anonymously abandoned babies in the past, according to The Washington Post.
The suit’s announcement comes exactly a week before the start of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, which Qatar is hosting. The filing will “send a message to Qatari authorities that you can’t treat women… in this manner,” an attorney for the plaintiffs said Monday. It will also alert travelers to Qatar, he added, that “whilst there is a guise of a highly developed, highly modernized airport and national carrier, these events have happened, and there’s nothing preventing them from happening again.”