Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, said on Monday at a news conference in Canberra, the capital, that government officials had been made aware of the incident by passengers on the flight from Doha.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” Ms. Payne said. “It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life in any context.”
Ms. Payne added that Qatari officials had indicated they would provide a report on the incident, and that once she had reviewed the details, the government would determine its next steps.
Flight QR908 was waiting on the tarmac when the crew asked all the women on board to disembark, Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger, said in an interview on Monday. He said that a dozen Australian women, as well as women of other nationalities, were removed from the plane.
“About three hours in, there was an announcement that the women should disembark. I personally found this disturbing,” said Dr. Babeck, a law professor who was returning to Australia after visiting his sick father in Germany.
He said he later learned from the women that they had been escorted back to the terminal, where they had been given invasive exams by a female doctor. At least 13 women from Australia were medically examined, according to reports the women gave to the Australian government and accounts from other passengers. Some news reports indicated they had been examined in an ambulance on the tarmac.
When the women returned to the plane, Dr. Babeck said, many appeared “shellshocked,” and others were crying. “Everybody was, of course, desperate to get home,” he added.