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Iranian Hardliners Attack Swedish Delegation Over Hijabs

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom at a press conference in Stockholm in June 2016. (Photo: © MAJA SUSLIN/TT/AFP/Getty Images)

A Swedish delegation to Iran was heavily criticized for a decision to wear hijabs while in the country, in deference to Iran’s modesty laws, despite attempting to brand themselves as their country’s “first feminist government.”

Yet they were also criticized by Iranian hardliners who found their conciliatory approach did not go far enough.

Iran and Sweden signed five memoranda of understanding during the visit. The signings took place at the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, rather than at an Iranian location.

“In an unexpected and questionable occurrence, the ceremony for signing trade contracts between Iran and Sweden was held at the residence of the Swedish ambassador and not our country’s official institutions,” Hossein Shariatmadari, the chief editor of the Kayhan media outlet wrote on February 12, according to a translation by Al-Monitor. “Pictures of the mentioned ceremony indicate that the female members of the Swedish prime minister’s delegation were in attendance without [wearing] hijabs. It has been said that the Swedish prime minister and the ambassador had insisted that the ceremony be held at the Swedish ambassador’s residence so that these women could attend without [observing the] hijab.”

Others objected to the location of the signing ceremony.

“[Signing] contracts and agreements outside an official [Iranian] venue and [instead] at the residence of an ambassador, who is our guest, is the diplomatic humiliation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and humiliation of the Iranian nation,” member of parliament Seyyed Hossein Naghavi Hosseini said.

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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.