GENEVA, Feb. 13, 2017 — In a statement that has gone viral on Twitter and Facebook, UN Watch expressed disappointment that Sweden’s self-described “first feminist government in the world” sacrificed its principles and betrayed the rights of Iranian women as trade minister Ann Linde led other female members in walking before Iranian President Rouhani on Saturday covered in Hijabs, Chadors, and long coats, in deference to Iran’s oppressive, discriminatory and unjust modesty laws which make the Hijab compulsory — despite the Swedish government’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 appeal by Iranian women’s right activist Masih Alinejad who urged European female politicians “to stand for their own dignity” and to refuse to kowtow to the compulsory and discriminatory Hijab law while visiting Iran.
Alinrejad created a Facebook page for Iranian women to show pictures of their uncovered hair as an act of resistance, a page 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—and male—ministers never should never have gone to misogynistic Iran in the first place.
The Swedish 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.”
“By participating, I would be forced to submit to forms of oppression designed specifically for women,” says the Las Vegas-based Paikidze, 23.
Paikidze was even wiling to sacrifice her dreams. “I would rather not be a world champion,” she says. “Human rights stand above chess and everything else.”