A fellow passenger on-board the Qatar Airways flight that saw 13 Australian women rounded up and subjected to “invasive” physical examination has given a “horrifying” account of exactly how the situation unfolded.
Dr Wolfgang Babeck was on-board Qatar Airways flight 908 to Sydney on October 2, which was delayed for hours after a premature baby was found alive in an airport bathroom.
The ensuing search for the baby’s mother saw 13 women from the flight ordered to disembark and undergo invasive gynaecological exams without proper explanation.
Speaking on Monday night’s episode of The Project, Dr Babeck revealed the flight had sat for three hours on the tarmac at Doha’s Hamad International Airport before passengers were advised the airport had been entirely closed.
“About three hours in, the women were asked to disembark the plane and, in fact, I thought, ‘the vulnerable people are being taken off the plane and there is probably a security incident or something’.
“And sure enough, shortly thereafter, some security guards came on board to basically search whether another person would be hiding on the plane,” Dr Babeck told host Carrie Bickmore.
He confirmed that none of the passengers had been told about the baby’s discovery, and the women were given no indication as to why they were being asked to leave the plane.
“From what I understand, which is very frightening, many, if not all of them were not told prior to their inspection what the reason for it was, so it only came out at the end when they reboarded … it must have been a terrifying ordeal, not even knowing what the purpose of this is,” he said.
Bickmore, who described the incident as “deeply shocking,” and “unfathomable,” asked what the women’s demeanour was like when they returned to the aircraft.
“Shell-shocked. Certainly the beginning. They were in disbelief, you know? You would have imagined this would have happened 100 years ago, but not now … One lady cried, others were certainly upset, but I think becoming angry in a mood to protest or to take action? That occurred much later,” he said.
Dr Babeck went through the hotel quarantine process alongside the women from his flight after disembarking, and has kept in contact with them via a WhatsApp group. He said he was “utterly impressed” by how they’ve been coping.
“I have utmost admiration for them, because they have very strong personalities among them, different character, but I think united by the idea that this can never happen again, and that they would like to use their personal ordeal to make sure that people are made responsible for what has occurred, and that there is an investigation going on,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is waiting for a report from Qatari authorities into the incident, which Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne described as “grossly disturbing and offensive” and unlike anything she “had ever heard of”.
The incident has been reported to the Australian Federal Police.