Qatar has also been criticised for its human rights recordWikimedia commns

Cambridge SU have ended their partnership with Qatar Airways Student Club, after facing criticism for a Facebook post on 30/10 promoting the company.  The post has since been deleted.

Student objections to the promotion came after several controversies centering on Qatar Airways, including the removal and  strip-search of two British women by government authorities from a Qatar Airways flight last year last year.

The post – which urged students to “Join Qatar Airways Student club before 31 October” to win two flight tickets received multiple angry reactions, with one student commenting “Please delete”.

An SU spokesperson told Varsity that they thanked students for taking the time to offer feedback on their choice of advertisement: “After reflecting on the concerns raised we have concluded that going ahead with this commercial relationship was not the right decision for us to have made and can confirm that we will be ending our relationship with Qatar Airways.

They continued: “Cambridge SU’s commercial relationships help us to provide better services to students, but we want to do that in a way that is in line with our values and our campaigns. Within the SU, conversations regarding updating our advertising policy to have more robust ethical criteria will be taking place in the next few weeks.”

Qatar Airways Student Club is a free loyalty programme operated by the Qatari state-sponsored Qatar Airways.

This promotion follows multiple controversies at Qatar Airways, the most recent of which involved two British women forming part of a group of nine who were removed from a Qatar Airways flight and subjected to a “compulsory intimate medical examination” by state authorities in October last year.

The women involved in these checks were forced to disembark from flights at Doha and led to waiting ambulances, where government female medical professionals examined them to see if they had recently given birth. The state of Qatar later claimed that this was in order to find a newborn baby who had been placed in a rubbish bin.

At the time, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stated, “We have formally expressed our concern with the Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways and are seeking assurances an unacceptable incident like this cannot happen again.”

Human Rights Watch stated after the incident in October 2020 that “Qatar should prohibit forced gynecological exams and investigate and bring to account any individuals who authorized any demeaning treatment.”

Qatar Airways has also been the subject of controversy surrounding its strict control of employees, which includes a contractual obligation for women working for the airline to disclose pregnancy, or risk being fired.

Qatar’s human rights record on both women’s and workers’ rights has been criticised in the past, with Human Rights Watch commenting in March on how Qatar’s male guardianship law severely restricts women’s freedom, and Qatar’s “discriminatory citizenship” law barring most non-native citizens from voting in elections.

The recent attention on Qatar in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup has also led to criticism of the country, with Amnesty International’s Sacha Deshmukh commenting on the country’s “longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers”.