Swedish minister responds to Iran headscarf criticism

Swedish minister responds to Iran headscarf criticism
Ann Linde (left) and Iran's Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi (right). Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Sweden's Trade Minister Ann Linde has defended the wearing of headscarves by her and other female officials during an official visit to Iran, saying that the law in the country meant she was obliged to do so.

Linde led a Swedish business delegation to Tehran last week, and she and other female members of the delegation were pictured wearing headscarves during the trip, sparking debate on social media over whether a member of the self-described “world's first feminist government” should have done so.

Jan Björklund, the leader of the opposition Liberal party, has attacked Linde, saying she should not have worn a garment which is “part of patriarchal oppression” and that doing so was “ruinous for feminist foreign policy”.

But Linde has fired back in turn, accusing Björklund and the opposition of trying to score cheap points over the matter.

“I think it's so stupid I don't know what to say. The opposite: what has he done in Iran to address women's rights?” she told news agency TT.

Images of German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen visiting Saudi Arabia without wearing a headscarf have been shared on Twitter in response to Linde's visit, but the Swedish Trade Minister has pointed out that the law there does not require women to wear the garment, unlike in Iran.

“It is their law, unlike in Saudi Arabia where it is not the law to wear a headscarf. I will travel to Saudi Arabia in the next month and I of course won't wear a headscarf,” she said.

Not everyone has been critical of Linde however. One tweet claimed that critics were showing double standards as a similar furore was not created when Queen Silvia covered her hair during a visit to the Vatican in 2015.

The purpose of Linde's visit last week was to try and improve Swedish trade links with Iran, with it hoped that Swedish exports to the country can be increased. Swedish PM Stefan Löfven, who was also in the country on an official visit, said that he brought up human rights issues during his meeting with counterpart Hassan Rouhani in Tehran.