by Louise Perry
Wednesday, 28
October 2020
Reaction
11:40

Behind the Gulf’s western facade

An abandoned baby in Doha Airport reveals the region's dark side
by Louise Perry
Credit: Getty

When a newborn baby was found abandoned in a bathroom at Doha Airport on 2nd October, Qatari officials acted swiftly. Women on a flight bound for Sydney, all of whom had briefly had access to the bathroom, were hauled off their plane, escorted to waiting ambulances, and strip searched. Women of childbearing age were also searched internally.

Despite these efforts, the mother wasn’t found. As The Times reports:

Abandonment of babies is a regular problem in Gulf states, where strict rules on sex outside marriage mean that giving birth without having a marriage certificate, or even simply reporting a pregnancy to doctors, can incur a prison sentence.
- The Times

This isn’t the first time that Westerners — particularly Western women — have run afoul of draconian laws while travelling through the Gulf. In 2016, a British woman who had been gang raped by two fellow travellers reported the crime to Dubai police and was arrested for breaking Emirati laws against extra-marital sex. In 2018, another British woman was jailed in Dubai for several days, allegedly for drinking wine on her flight from London.

As a British-Australian, I’ve often travelled through Gulf airports, most regularly Dubai — which alone attracts half a million British tourists a year. MuscatAbu Dhabi, and Doha have also experienced a tourism boom over the last decade, offering visitors shopping, five star hotels, and plenty of sunshine.

These Gulf states have worked hard to present themselves as a playground for rich Westerners. Dubai Airport, in particular, has been carefully designed to cultivate a very particular Westernised image. Everywhere you look, there are luxury brands, British restaurant chains, and clocks sponsored by Rolex.

You’d never know, as a casual visitor, that these oil-rich states are very far from fully Westernised. Sharper-eyed tourists might wonder why almost all of the airport and hotel workers are South Asian, as are most of the ‘virtual slaves’ who work in construction or as domestic servants. They might also notice the treatment these workers are subjected to.

A family friend who recently stayed in an Abu Dhabi hotel noted the presence of a woman whose only job seemed to be to crawl around on the floor, wiping up the splashing water from a nearby fountain. She spent all day on her hands and knees, disregarded by most passing visitors. Such women are acutely vulnerable to abuse by their employers, particularly sexual abuse, which is one reason for the large numbers of abandoned babies.

The relationship between Westerners and the Gulf states is one of convenience and, for airlines, Doha and Dubai provide useful refuelling stops, particularly on the route between Europe and Australia.

But new direct flights from London to Perth may put an end to this arrangement, and many Australians of my acquaintance will be relieved. Because occasionally the mask slips, as in this latest dreadful incident, and we are reminded that a superficial imitation of Westernisation is only an illusion. These Gulf states have appropriated only the worst elements of the West, while rejecting the best.

Join the discussion


  • Things will never change in Islamic countries. If you thought the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia have changed – behind the glitter the dark hand of Muhammad reigns supreme, You have been deluded.

  • There are vast number of non-Western nations that are miles ahead of these slave-states in terms of quality of life and respect for human rights.

  • When a religion believes a man who fell for a 6 year old who still played with doll, and who used to play children’s game with her and her fellow child friends until she got to 9, where he raped her, and had 9-13 wives including a sex-slave, is the perfect man for all times, this is the result.

    I’m afraid a study of the religion in an objective ways shows these people are doing nothing except living identically to the way Muhammad and his cult followers acted.

    After watching my favourite sport showcasing UFC fights in Abu Dhabi, I did think, with all the great architecture and modernization taking place there, the Islamic world would be changing.

    Sad to hear these stories. Life for women in those countries is truly horrific.

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