Sweden defends decision to have female delegates wear headscarves in Iran

Sweden's Trade Minister Ann Linde attending a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 2016.
Sweden's Trade Minister Ann Linde attending a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Swedish Environment Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin (left) signs a referral of Swedish climate law, binding all future governments to net zero emissions by 2045 at the ministry in Stockholm on February 1, 2017. The bill signing was
Swedish Environment Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin (left) signs a referral of Swedish climate law, binding all future governments to net zero emissions by 2045 at the ministry in Stockholm on February 1, 2017. The bill signing was witnessed by seven female colleagues, imitating a viral photograph of US President Donald Trump signing an executive order on January 23 at the White House under the watchful eye of his all-male colleagues.PHOTO: AFP/Johan Schiff, Regeringen

STOCKHOLM - Sweden has defended its decision to have its visiting officials to Iran wear headscarves, after drawing flak from activists and politicians.

Trade Minister Ann Linde wore one when she led a delegation last week to meet counterparts in Tehran, and told the Aftonbladet newspaper that she did not want to break Iranian law.

Sweden has said it has "the world's first feminist government".

Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad took to Facebook to criticise Ms Linde, posting a picture of Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin signing a climate bill earlier this month, with a team of female colleagues watching on.

She juxtaposed that picture - meant to mock US President Donald Trump who signed an anti-abortion executive order in the presence of an exclusively male group of advisers and aides - with female Swedish officials greeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, all wearing headscarves.

The women officials "should have also condemned an equally unfair situation in Iran," said the post on a Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom. The page features defiant Iranian women posting pictures of themselves without the headscarf, or hijab.

Ms Alinejad later told the BBC: "..if you are feminists and you care about equality then you should challenge inequality everywhere". She added: "They must stand for their own values."

The Swedish government has said that "equality between women and men is a fundamental aim of Swedish foreign policy", reported the BBC.