GENEVA, Feb. 13, 2017 — In a statement that has gone viral on Twitter and Facebook, UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights NGO in Geneva, expressed disappointment that Sweden’s self-declared “first feminist government in the world”sacrificed its principles and betrayed the rights of Iranian women as Trade Minister Ann Linde and other female members walked before Iranian President Rouhani on Saturday wearing Hijabs, Chadors, and long coats, in deference to Iran’s oppressive and unjust modesty laws which make the Hijab compulsory — despite Stockholm’s promise to promote “a gender equality perspective” internationally, and to adopt a “feminist foreign policy” in which “equality between women and men is a fundamental aim.”
In doing so, Sweden’s female leaders ignored the recent appeal by Iranian women’s right activist Masih Alinejad who urgedEuropeans female politicians “to stand for their own dignity” and to refuse to kowtow to the compulsory Hijab while visiting Iran.
Alinrejad created a Facebook page for Iranian women to resist the law and show their hair as an act of resistance, which now numbers 1 million followers.
“European female politicians are hypocrites,” says Alinejad. “They stand with French Muslim women and condemn the burkini ban—because they think compulsion is bad—but when it happens to Iran, they just care about money.”
The scene in Tehran on Saturday was also a sharp contrast to Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin’s feminist stance against U.S. President Donald Trump, in a viral tweet and then in a Guardian op-ed last week, in which she wrote that “the world need strong leadership for women’s rights.”
Trade Minister Linde, who signed multiple agreements with Iranian ministers while wearing a veil, “sees no conflict” between her government’s human rights policy and signing trade deals with an oppressive dictatorship that tortures prisoners, persecutes gays, and is a leading executioner of minors.
“If Sweden really cares about human rights, they should not be empowering a regime that brutalizes its own citizens while carrying out genocide in Syria; and if they care about women’s rights, then the female ministers never should have gone to misogynistic Iran in the first place,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.
The government has now come under sharp criticism from centrist and left-wing Swedish lawmakers, who said the ministers should not have deferred to “gender apartheid.”
“They go to my country,” said Aliinejad recently in the European Parliament, “and they ignore millions of those women who send their photos to me and put themselves in danger to be heard. And [the European politicians] keep their smile, and wearing hijab, and saying this is a ‘cultural issue’—which is wrong.”