Sweden defends decision to oblige headscarf for female officials visiting Iran

BBC – The Swedish government has defended its decision to have its officials wear headscarves during a trip to Iran, saying that failing to do so would have broken the law.

Trade Minister Ann Linde led a business team last week and faced criticism for wearing a headscarf, or hijab.

Sweden says it has the world’s first “feminist government”.

A prominent Iranian women’s rights activist and Swedish politicians have criticised the decision.

“It is ruinous to what is called a feminist foreign policy” said Liberal party chief Jan Bjorklund, who said Iran oppressed women through legislation.

The Swedish government should have requested that female members of the delegation should not have been required to wear a headscarf, he said, and that if the request were not granted any trade agreements should have been signed in Sweden or a third country.

But Ms Linde told the Aftonbladet newspaper that she was not willing to break Iranian law. She said that since the only other option would be to send an all-male delegation, she was required to wear a headscarf.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was also in Iran and said he raised human rights issues with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

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