“Feminist government” of Sweden dons hijabs and body-covering coats in Iran

The official website of the government of Sweden proclaims this:

A FEMINIST GOVERNMENT

Sweden has the first feminist government in the world. This means that gender equality is central to the Government’s priorities – in decision-making and resource allocation. A feminist government ensures that a gender equality perspective is brought into policy-making on a broad front, both nationally and internationally. Women and men must have the same power to shape society and their own lives.

There’s also a photo (I’m not sure which officials are included) with more than half of the people being women:

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-7-19-37-am

Photo: Kristian Pohl/Regeringskansliet

And of course this is great. Sweden has been a pioneer in implementing the policy noted above, including a parental-leave policy that funds leave for both mothers and fathers—and you get financially penalized if the dad doesn’t take leave. So what happens when the feminist Swedish government sent its Prime Minister (Stefan Lofven) as well as its its trade minister (Ann Linde) and a delegation to Iran—a delegation that included 11 women?

What happened you can see below: all the women not only wore hijabs, but also longish coats to cover their lust-inciting bodies. Nor did they shake hands with any of the men, for even that gesture is barred in Iran, though I’m not sure whether it’s illegal.  Now as the Washington Post reports,

By law, women are required to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes when they appear in public in Iran, a country governed by a conservative Islamic elite. Many choose to wear loose-fitting hijabs, like the one worn by Linde in the picture [below].

These rules require international visitors to dress modestly even if they are only in the country for a short time.

swedens-walk-of-shame-hi-red

Linde was heavily veiled when she signed a document next to Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs:

imrs-1

Ann Linde, left, Sweden’s minister for European Union affairs and trade, and Shahindokht Molaverdi, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs, sign documents at Saadabad Palace in Tehran on Feb. 11. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Here’s Linde deferring to the custom that women not shake hands with men—in this case, Iranian President Rouhani:

ann-linde

While it is the law that women, including foreigners, should be veiled in Iran, I doubt that they are required to wear long coats.

The feminist government has received the expected pushback for complying with laws that are religiously based and stem from the idea that it’s a woman’s responsibility to cover her shameful body lest she incite the uncontrollable lust of men. As the Post reports:

“By actually complying with the directives of the Islamic Republic, Western women legitimize the compulsory hijab law,” Alinejad [an Iranian women’s rights activist see below] wrote on Facebook. “This is a discriminatory law and it’s not an internal matter when the Islamic Republic forces all non-Iranian women to wear hijab as well.”

Alinejad later shared to Facebook a recent image of Sweden’s deputy prime minister Isabella Lovin signing a document with an all-female staff behind her. That image recently went viral, as many viewed it as a criticism of President Trump’s abortion policies. “Trump’s words on women are worthy of condemnation; so are the discriminatory laws in Iran,” Alinejad wrote.

Speaking to Expressen, Linde said she had not wanted to wear a headscarf. “But it is law in Iran that women must wear the veil. One can hardly come here and break the laws,” she explained.

Other Swedish politicians were more critical. Jan Björklund, leader of the opposition Liberals party, told Aftonbladet newspaper that the headscarf is “a symbol of oppression for women in Iran” and that the Swedish government should have demanded that Linde and other female members of the delegation be exempted from wearing it.

You remember that FIDE, the international chess federation, also has a statement that “rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of gender”, but required women chess players of all nationalities to don the hijab for the world chess championships in Iran, which is underway right now. Many women refused to participate because of the hijab requirement, including American chess champion Nazi Paikidze. Wikipedia names others, some of whom may have different reasons:

Hou Yifan, the reigning women’s world champion and top ranked female player, decided not to enter the tournament because of dissatisfaction with FIDE’s Women’s World Championship system. The 2015 Women’s World Champion, Mariya Muzychuk, and current US Women’s Champion Nazi Paikidze also elected not to attend, out of protest at the tournament’s location in Iran, where it is mandatory for women to wear the headscarf in public. Other notable absentees are women’s world number 4 Humpy Koneru and 7-time US Women’s Champion Irina Krush.

Now the case of Sweden is less clear cut, as of course countries have to maintain relationships with each other. But I think it goes too far to force non-Muslims (or anybody) to adhere to religious dictates while they’re not in a house of worship. And of course wearing hijabs in Iran is not a choice: it’s compulsory, and has been so since 1979. In the end, it seems to me that the Swedes should either not have gone to Iran, told the Iranians that they had to have the meeting in Sweden or in a neutral country, or insisted on not wearing the hijab.  As UN Watch notes:

“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.”

Seth Frantzman at The Jerusalem Post is ever more exercised:

Countries that respect human rights and equality shouldn’t send delegations to Iran in the first place. It’s one thing to cover one’s hair or remove shoes when entering a house of worship, to observe the local custom, but when a country has vicious discriminatory laws forcing women to dress a certain way, it’s time for governments to say “no.” No meetings, no respect, no stamp of approval to fascist treatment for women.

If Iran can force foreign diplomatic delegations of women to wear large coats and cover up their hair, what if a government forced female diplomats to go topless? Would that be a red line? You may think it’s ridiculous – but why is it any more ridiculous to force women to disrobe then to force them to robe? If Iran can force women in a delegation not to present their hands to a male leader, lest he be “contaminated,” then why can’t Western countries force the Iranians to shake the hands of women and observe Western customs? It might offend them? You’d think, maybe, it is logical to show deference and respect for another culture if that culture and religion shows deference and respect for your way of life. But what happens when the Iranians visit Europe? Italy covered up nude statues so as not to offend the Ayatollah.

. . . Beyond being honest in our language, we need to have a different policy when it comes to Iran and Saudi Arabia and regimes like them. We must demand that Rouhani’s delegations to the West consist of Iranian women dissidents, such as those imprisoned for attending volleyball games, or he won’t be allowed to come. Saudi Arabian diplomats must be forbidden to drive when they visit, and their male diplomats in our societies will have to ask permission from women who will be appointed their guardians before they travel.

Here’s a video of Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, founder of the My Stealthy Freedom page (where women take off their hijabs as a protest; see here as well), urging Western politicians not to obey these compulsory hijab laws. Alinejad refutes four arguments that Westerners use to justify wearing the hijab in Iran. Needless to say, Alinejad doesn’t live in Iran, where she’d be arrested (or worse): she’s living in exile in the UK. Note that when she got a visa to the US specifically to interview Barack Obama, he refused the interview.

This is a brave and heartfelt plea, and at 8:20 Alinejad waxes particularly eloquent, calling European female politicians “hyocrites” for bowing to hijab laws. At least listen to the last minute, and if you like that video, watch this one on the My Stealthy Freedom campaign.

So I quail at a feminist government obeying laws designed to oppress women. In the end, I don’t think the Swedes should have gone to Iran and obeyed their misogynistic laws. Similarly, if Israel required visiting male diplomats to wear yarmulkes during a diplomatic meeting, or stipulated that women couldn’t shake hands with men, I’d decry that, too.

But I’m interested in readers’ views, particularly from women, so weigh in below.

110 Comments

  1. Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I wonder why in the first place the trade representatives from the eleventh largest arms exporter were in Iran.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      @Dermot O’Sullivan Before sanctions were imposed on Iran, the country was Stockholm’s largest trading partner & Sweden wants to get back to that happy situation.

      Why are you bringing up Sweden’s status as an arms exporter? You imply that arms sales are Sweden’s trade interest in Iran. As far as I can see [admittedly it’s Wiki I’m looking at] Swedish arms exports are declining year-on-year. Also Sweden announced on 26th June 2015 that it would be restricting arms exports exclusively to democracies – the first country to try such a thing. Iran is not classed by them as a democracy.

      • FiveGreenLeafs
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        I think you have misunderstood.

        “Also Sweden announced on 26th June 2015 that it would be restricting arms exports exclusively to democracies”

        No it didn’t, the The parliamentary inquiry, (Kex – Krigsmaterielexportöversynskommittén) published its finding 26th of June 2015.

        As far as I know, no proposition for parliament to vote on has even been presented yet.

      • Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Why bring up Sweden’s arms trade, Michael? Because it’s highly likely that Khameini did. He used the discussions to bring up ‘regional problems’, in other words Syria’s support for Assad. This in the light of Iran’s first ballistic test last July and today Foreign Minister Zarif’s flat-out denial that their client Assad has used chemical weapons. Trustworthy? No.

        If I were at the top of the Iranian heap I’d be tempted to revive old Iranian-Swede trade relations and drive a wedge between NATO and the historically semi-detached Swedes with their arms expertise.

        Yes, the Swedish criterion of selling arms to countries with good human rights records is a problem for Iran. But it didn’t stop Saab in Autumn 2015 from signing a contract with UAE for airborne surveillance systems after the June 2015 no-arms-sales-to-autocracies policy. UAE was of course involved in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

        Iran will have spotted that and drawn its own conclusions.

        • Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          Or rather, Zarif evaded the question of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Apologies.

  2. fizziks
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Not a female but I am disgusted by this, and I think (hope) that second-wave feminists and all of those who fought to truly liberate women would be disgusted as well.

    Today in the Regressive Left all formerly liberal causes, whether they be women’s rights, gay rights, free speech, or anything else, must be abandoned in the name of promoting Islam.

  3. somer
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    They do some things right but when will they stop behaving like fake “feminists”.

  4. historian
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Apparently the Swedish representatives decided that the benefits to Sweden accruing from the visit did not warrant playing a game of chicken with the Iranians. Without knowing what was at stake for the Swedes, I cannot condemn the women for what they did. It would take a situation where the Iranians would want something desperately from a western nation to get them to back down. Of course, the western nation would need to have a strong commitment to women’s rights and a willingness to act upon it to call the hand of the Iranians.

    • Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Playing chicken?

      Unless the Iranian army is amassing on the Swedish border I can’t see any situation that justifies the Swedes abasing themselves like this.

      Can you give a specific example?

      • Historian
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Unless you claim to be an expert on Swedish diplomacy and the needs of Sweden,you have no idea what the Swedes hoped to get out of their meeting with the Iranians. They may have determined that what they got out of the meeting was worth adhering to the dress code. So, before condemning the Swedes, you really need to know what what they hoped to achieve from this meeting. Despite your inability to see why the Swedes did what they did, from the point of view of the Swedish national interest, it may have been worth it.

        The purpose of international diplomacy is to gain something for your country at a cost you can afford. This is not accomplished through grand symbolic gestures.

        • Draken
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

          You don’t need to be an expert on the needs of Sweden here, as Dermott o’Sullivan in #1 just nailed that: weapons exports.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            @Draken What information do you have that leads you to the conclusion that Sweden is in Iran for reason of arms sales? Your name “Draken” [translates as “Dragon” & also a Swedish warplane] suggests you are Swedish so perhaps you have special knowledge…

            Dermott O’Sullivan in #1 didn’t “nail it” – see my reply to him re Swedish arms exports policy to democracies only.

        • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          The onus is on you to give a reason that you think justifies this demeaning behaviour.

          The default position is that people should be treated equally.

          Dismissing me as ignorant when you obviously have no superior knowledge yourself is simply arrogant.

          • Historian
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

            Wrong. Your condemning of the Swedes without knowing what they did and why they did it (in terms of the negotiation) is arrogant.

            • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

              I have no idea of the exact cost to the UK of opposing trade with South Africa during Apartheid either, and even if it did it wouldn’t make me despise Margaret Thatcher less.

              Maybe you’d like to put a price on women’s rights? $100,000? $1B? $10B?

              How much are women worth?

              • Historian
                Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                It seems that you take the view that international relations should be underpinned by morality. This is in distinction to the view that morality should not play a role. The “realists” argue that only the welfare of the nation should be considered in the formulation of foreign policy. I actually agree that the moral values of a nation should play a role (although not exclusively) in its diplomacy. It is a tricky business for nations to balance national interest with morality.

                The question for this specific incident is whether the Swedes considered morality when they told the women to cover-up and concluded that the moral benefit of protesting the dress code would not actually accrue benefit to Iranian women while at the same time jeopardizing the Swedish national interest. We do not know the answer to this question. For example, it is possible that the Swedes may have calculated that a protest would have done nothing to help Iranian women, perhaps even hurt them, so from a moral point of view a protest would have been counterproductive. Without much more knowledge, it is unfair to the Swedes to jump the gun and condemn them.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

              Your assertion that we need to have first hand knowledge of the motivations regarding the Iranian visit/negotiations is highly problematic because that will mean that the public would virtually not be able to criticize any government policy!

              Secondly the motivations might very well be naive and misguided.

              “This is not accomplished through grand symbolic gestures.”
              One could argue that this actually was a grand symbolic gesture!

            • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

              Do not insult other commenters, please. See the Roolz. “Arrogant” is one of those words that needn’t be used. You do see that you could have made your point without it?

    • FiveGreenLeafs
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      A quick glance at the world map, and the relative positions of Sweden and Iran, should give you a hint, (i.e. they are not bordering countries, or even located in the same region of the world). This was a trade mission.

      The worlds self proclaimed moral superpower, and the first feminist government, sold out its most cherished beliefs for a pot of gold.

      I think the English world that is appropriate to use here, is hypocrisy.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Like Historian, I’m not sure about this one either. I can think of arguments on both sides.

      Also, why don’t Sweden refuse to do business with all the countries that don’t have feminist governments like they do? It’s the same principle. Is that the US benchmark -that they’re better than Iran? The US is behind almost all other Western nations when it comes to maternity/paternity leave, sick leave, annual leave, child care, health care, etc but we don’t refuse to do business with them until they up their game.

      The Swedish women all appear to be wearing trousers, and the Iranian government is forced to interact with them as equals despite the lack of handshakes.

      When it comes to government, things are a bit different than other situations. Diplomacy requires compromises. The world would be a much less peaceful place if everybody were purists about everything.

      This is a good opportunity to highlight the issue, but I don’t think everyone should be picking on Sweden when most of the time they’re an example that the rest of the world needs to follow.

      The chess is different. It is a private organisation, it already has a reputation for some appalling stuff, and it shouldn’t have held its women’s tournament in Iran. I would have boycotted that too, and signed the petition in relation to that.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        I would point out something else as Historian already has in a way. We can take our attitudes and beliefs and say what we want about what was going on in this matter but Sweden has their culture and their attitude in dealing with others internationally that differ from ours. I would say, look at what Sweden has done in their own country regarding women and not get all frosted up at how they do their own diplomacy in the world. We can certainly have our views on how Islam treats women but getting all over Sweden about this – I don’t think so.

      • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Ummm. . . . so we shouldn’t criticize the Swedes because they’re good in other ways? Nobody is above questioning and criticism.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          No, that’s not what I’m saying – my words came out a bit wrong. You can criticize them of course, but I don’t think Sweden should have to refuse to deal with Iran because of this.

          For me it’s the difference between a private person and a government. Diplomacy has to carry on, and almost always it’s the best way to bring about change.

          As I said, this is an opportunity to highlight the issues in Iran. I’m glad it’s being done. I hope it helps. I just don’t think Sweden’s government playing the martyr would be a good idea. I think it’s good for Iran to have to deal with Sweden’s feminist government. There was a time when some Muslim countries refused to deal with women at all, and other countries complied with that.

          We don’t like their law re hijab, and we should protest it, but it is the law and we have to follow it. As they said, hijab isn’t the law in Saudi Arabia and therefore they won’t wear it there.

      • FiveGreenLeafs
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Heather,

        Much has changed in Sweden over the last couple of years, and I think people outside Sweden simply has not been able to keep up with these changes, and update their knowledge. And, I think this knowledge is critical, if you want to try to understand what is really going on here.

        In many ways Sweden is now going backwards, we are, for example as a nation becoming poorer, GDP per capita has stagnated or is even slightly negative since 2008. The number that is often produced GDP, has increased, but, since Sweden has taken in several 100 000s of immigrants, the per capita number does not. A wast majority of these immigrants, even after 10 years in Sweden, live almost exclusively on social welfare.

        This has been an enormous drain on Sweden’s resources, and, our social security system, are now beginning to break down. Sweden for example, do have general health care, but, we now have among the longest waiting time in Europe besides Albania, to get it. It can take several days, just to get in contact with your primacy care center, weeks until you get to see a doctor, and years, until you can see a specialist.

        There are now (in many parts of Sweden) 2 years waiting time to get a non emergency appointment at the dentist.

        County governments are closing down maternity wards, in a desperate attempt so save money, and give women courses in delivering babies in their cars, since it now can be 200km to the nearest delivery room.

        The municipality taxes will have to be increased with 2-3% over the board next year, to just keep up the current level of education and social services, and Sweden already have among the highest taxes in the world.

        Then we have the political situation. Early in 2016 it was revealed that the prominent members in the Green Party, including Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan, had contacts with Islamists in his native Turkey, and several high party politicians refused to even shake the hands of women.

        And, this is not in Iran, this is in Sweden, and in the Green Party, the most openly professed feminist party in the parliament. In a bizarre attempt to defuse the situation, the vice premier Åsa Romson, described the plane attack on 9/11 as an accident. A big scandal followed with several resignations.

        This story was also picked up in international press,

        Swedish Greens jolted by claims of Islamist infiltration

        This are all critical parts (I think) of background needed to understand what is going on, and the somewhat schizophrenic behavior. Sweden is in desperate need to increase its financial resources, and, its leading political parties in government, are heavily influenced (if not infiltrated) by Islam.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

          Thanks. That’s interesting information. I knew there were some issues, but didn’t realize it had become this bad.

          I am recalling that this deal with Iran is maybe to sell them weapons. If so, that’s a reason to protest it imo. I’d protest any government selling arms etc to Iran.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

            @Heather – it has nothing to do with Sweden planning to sell arms to Iran. Sweden is the only nation to have a policy of not selling arms to non-democracies.

            • FiveGreenLeafs
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

              As far as I know, it has not been implemented yet, (but I might be wrong).

              The parliamentary inquiry, (Kex – Krigsmaterielexportöversynskommittén) published its finding 26th of June 2015, but as late as 20th of December 2016, the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society published a press release on their homepage, accompanying an article in SVD, demanding that the promises to stop the export of weapons to non democratic countries be honored.

              As far as I know, the plan is (currently) to present a proposition sometimes during the Spring of 2017.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                @FiveGreenLeafs You are probably correct, but it is still impressive that the 3rd largest arms exporter [per capita] should make such a move & have it endorsed from the get go by their conservative elements [the idea may have come from the conservatives actually – I’m unsure of Swedish politics & what “conservative” means over there].

                I’m always impressed by the Swedish tendency to not slavishly align with current thinking by their neighbours & yet to still pull their weight when duty, as they see it, calls [Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan to name a few]

              • FiveGreenLeafs
                Posted February 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                Perhaps we should wait to open the champagne, until it has actually happened, no?

                It is not always that you can take a politicians on his word…

                I also think you are making the fallacy to confound history with the present, and extrapolate from historic accomplishments.

                Yes historically Sweden has done a lot of things and gone its own way in many aspects for good and bad, and even had the daring to openly stand up to the USA, nonetheless, like Olof Palme famously did.

                I am not so sure we are on the right track now though…

                Our neighbors, both Norway and Denmark, are now looking into emergency laws that makes it possible for them to close their borders completely, and not honor the Geneva convention, in case the Swedish society collapses…

                Norge vil bryde folkeretten og afvise flygtninge i krisetilfælde

                (Article is in Danish)

          • FiveGreenLeafs
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            It is saddening. And it is in many ways worse, because there now exists in many ways two Sweden, one for native Swedish women, and one for women that are immigrants or born to immigrants, in which women have very different rights.

            They live under very different conditions today, and there is a creeping accommodation going on, where for example public baths and swimming pools have started to have gender segregated opening periods. Gender segregated classes in schools, gender segregated athletics in school, girls no longer required to learn to swim in school, (something that was mandatory previously).

            What really makes my blood boil, is that when women that comes from these situations call out, that they are not allowed to walk around as they like, wear the cloths they like and so on, these women in hajibs in the pictures in Iran (and their political colleagues), does not always support them, but ostracize them.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

              It shouldn’t be that way. I’ve said on my own blog that long-term I think there will be a Europeanization of Muslims rather than an Islamization of Europe. That people like the Muslim mayors of London and Rotterdam are the future of Islam in Europe.

              However, Europe has to do a better job of integrating Muslim immigrants and refugees into their society. Enabling anti-women, anti-gay etc attitudes is different from respecting religious beliefs. There seems to be a lot of the former going on. It is easier to just let that happen, especially when you’re overwhelmed by numbers as Sweden has been in the last 3-4 years, but an effort has to be made.

              I note that Sweden has drastically reduced the number of refugees it’s taking recently. It has done more than its fair share and others do need to take up the baton.

              • nicky
                Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

                Europeanisation of Muslims is more likely than an Islamisation of Europe? That is not what appears to be happening, as you can gather from 5greenleaves post or from the video a muslim girl made in Belgium (shown on this website, but I can’t find it right now). I’d love to be wrong on this, but I fear I’m not.
                I think the Muslim mayors in London and Rotterdam, and Muslim council members in many other European cities are indeed more a sign of European ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘inclusiveness’ than of a ‘Europeanisation’ of Muslims in Europe.
                As for the Swedish delegation, I think they should not have gone, but if you go: do as the Romans when in Rome.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted February 20, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

                We’re always going to hear about the worst cases, and the current influx makes things overwhelming, as I said. I think long term the majority will adapt to more European behaviours as long as they’re given the opportunity which includes being welcoming. Actions speak louder than words.

                For example, the Canadian programme where communities adopt refugees is very good. Perhaps a Canadian could weigh in, but I understand that the resettlement administration can’t keep up with requests for refugees.

      • eric
        Posted February 20, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        Diplomacy requires compromises

        Yes, I agree. I see little problem with diplomats respecting the hijab custom, as it’s their job to get along in order to foster deals between countries. Other more extreme requirements? Sure, I can see not compromising. But on this particular one I don’t have a problem with diplomats being diplomatic.

        Having said that, I fully agree with Mr. Frantzman’s comment about how this should be a two-way street, and probably isn’t. If Iranian officials aren’t going to shake hands with them when they are on Swedish soil, that’s something I would hope the Swedes would bring up and hopefully insist on in future negotiations. Iranian diplomacy should also require Iranian compromise, else it shows bad faith and an unwillingness to deal.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          I agree. The delegation is following Iranian law. In Sweden, the Iranians should do the same and follow Swedish law.

  5. Mark
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Great video, kudos to Ms. Alinijad. It should be played in parliaments, assemblies, bundestags, congresses and university classrooms worldwide. As for the Swedish women, hey they’re politicians and we all the stupid crap politicians will do if they think it will get them votes. So perhaps they felt enough Swedish regressive leftists would approve & they could indulge themselves in their game of dress-up.

    • somer
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Like the celebration of Hijab day on their websites

  6. Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Imagine if Obama had visited South Africa during Apartheid – would liberals have applauded him for following local customs and using the servant’s entrance when attending public functions?

    Would they have expected him to serve the drinks and mop up afterwards?

    • Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Good point!

      • Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        During the Eighties the Left opposed apartheid with every fibre of their being.

        We refused to buy South African products and boycotted banks which associated with their regime. We boycotted sports events in South Africa and condemned our own politicians who defended the regime.

        And, right now, the Left addresses the far-less oppressive Israel in much the same way.

        I don’t care if oppressive regimes are prepared to trade dinosaur juice for weapons. They are both industries we need to extract ourselves from.

        No amount of trade is worth sacrificing the rights of half your own population and supporting the oppression of half of their population too.

        People are willing to pay extra for free-range chickens for Darwin’s sake. We shouldn’t be turning a blind eye to oppression for trade deals.

        • Claudia Baker
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Absolutely right. It makes me sad to see these strong women denigrate themselves to this sick cult for whatever reason.

          WTF is it anyway, with men? From the mullahs to those Orthodox Jews on the plane. ffs, things certainly appear to be going backwards. It’s frightening, from a woman’s p.o.v.

          • Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

            These men have a lot to answer for. What I find even more difficult to understand is the way some woman behave as well. Are they so ‘brainwashed’ as not to see the repression imposed on them ?
            On a flight from Istanbul to Paris not long ago, my husband and i witnessed an incident that really disturbed us ( and made us angry). A woman in her sixties refused to sit next to a teenager on the plane. She made a great fuss even yelling ‘I am not going to sit next to a man’. I shall never forget the embarrassed face of that poor boy. The cabin crew need not have been so passive but they were.They did not look in control. ( I have mentioned the ages,even though I believe them to be irrelevant, to emphasise the absurdity of the incident)

        • FiveGreenLeafs
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

          +1

          Very well said!

        • eric
          Posted February 20, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

          I’m not entirely certain but I think the US maintained an embassy in SA during apartheid, while the boycotts were in effect.

          A country can do both simultaneously; maintain formal diplomatic contacts while refusing to trade etc. with the other country.

          • FiveGreenLeafs
            Posted February 20, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            Well, of course you can, but that is not the relevant question here, and what I think it was @Speaker To Animals tried to convey.

            USA for example, kept the embassy in Berlin staffed and in operation during Nazi Germany rule up to the declaration of war in 1941, and, when the US left, Switzerland took over the vacated building at Pariser Platz until the end of the war.

            And (as a side note) Sweden (for example) traded with Nazi Germany virtually until the end, and its iron ore and ball bearings were critical to keep the Wehrmacht in operation.

            Did the American staff the Embassy with Jews, and did the Jews wear the yellow Star of David?

            The issue at hand in regard to Sweden, is precisely trade, moral grandstanding and hypocrisy, not establishing or maintaining fundamental diplomatic relations.

  7. Malgorzata
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    sub

  8. Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    According to Swedish media (Isabelle Nordström and Olof Svensson, “Svenska ministern bar slöja i Iran – väcker debatt”, Aftonbladet, 12 feb 2017), the visit involved:

    – signing several heavy contracts for Swedish industries.
    – allowing the Swedish government to convey their stance on union rights and the rights of women.
    – the inauguration of Swedish Business office in Tehran.
    – talks about the war in Syria.

    The other options were to have a delegation with only men or risk of punishment from the morality police that sometimes target foreigners.

    They will visit Saudi Arabia in March where they said that they will not wear the hijab because it is not required by law.

    It is tempting to scold feminists for apparently hypocrisy, but sometimes one has to compromise to get things done.

    • Historian
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      You are exactly correct. Except in circumstances where a victorious nation is dictating terms to a vanquished one, all international diplomacy involves compromise. The idea is get more than you give away, which, under certain circumstances, actually is the result for all parties in the negotiation. The Swedes obviously determined that a symbolic gesture was not worth sacrificing the benefits that will result from the negotiation. Without knowing the details of the negotiation, as I suspect is the case for almost every reader of this article, it is quite premature to condemn the Swedes.

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        I wonder what the Iranians felt *they* were sacrificing, or compromising, in this exchange? Nothing that I can see.

        • Historian
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          Maybe you should read the text of the agreements to find out. It appears that your opinion of Swedish diplomats is so low that they would give away things with receiving nothing in return.

          • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

            Even if Sweden are profiting from this, Iranian women aren’t.

            If people are prepared to criticise Trump for saying hell put American interests over everyone else then the same goes for Sweden.

          • Jonathan Dore
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            “It appears that your opinion of Swedish diplomats is so low that they would give away things with receiving nothing in return.”

            Not at all. But it seems to me that all the Iranians have given away is money, in the same way in which you give a shop money when you make a purchase. Paying for your purchase isn’t a sacrifice or a compromise involving humiliation of your deepest principles. Seems to me that all the sacrifice in this case has been on the Swedish side. If you can identify any equivalent sacrifice the Iranians made, I’d be interested to hear what it was.

        • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          Nor will they compromise if they visit Sweden in return.

        • Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          + 1

      • FiveGreenLeafs
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        This is hilarious, because, this Swedish government, and the Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström in particular, has been criticized for being the most incompetent (and insensitive) when it comes to foreign relations, that we have had for decades.

        They have in a short order of time broken more unspoken rules, and amassed more international bad will, than any single government in recent memory.

        It is hard to know where to begin.

        Within 3 months, in 2015, she managed to make herself persona non grata in israel and in the whole GCC Gulf Cooperation Council area at the same time, and the Arab League voiced its displeasure openly.

        The situation could only be salvaged with a letter from the Swedish King, and, by sending an envoy in the form of an internationally highly respected former speaker of Parliament, Björn von Sydow.

        And, according to rumors, the important relations with Saudi Arabia was even lifted off her desk and now rests with the premier, Stefan Löfven himself.

        She has also managed to insult and offend all our neighboring Nordic countries, and for example compared Alexander Stubb, the Finish Foreign Minister, with a schoolyard bully.

        In an interview in SVT, Sweden’s National public broadcaster, she claimed that Israel is to blame for the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015 (Bataclan theatre) which claimed 120 lives.

        As someone stated, the new Swedish feminist diplomacy basically seems to be to publicly insult all other countries.

        The evidence and experience point to, that this is not and an example of a competent foreign relations decision, (since it has already turned out to be a public relations disaster) but rather another failure due to lack of a moral compass, backbone and deeply confused postmodern notions about culture relativism, islam and feminism.

        “Without knowing the details…

        Yes, I concur, it is very important to know the details…

        • rickflick
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          I’m getting in far over my head here, since I don’t remember details, but a year or so ago, if I remember correctly, this same Wallström criticized Saudi Arabia for some human rights abuses, of which I don’t remember the details, but there are plenty of those to chose from so I’m pretty sure she had a good case to make. The Saudi’s threathened to cut trade with Sweden saying, nations should not criticize the internal affairs of other nations. The Swiss forced Wallström, if I remember correctly to walk it back and allow, for the sake for a healthy economic relations, the Saudi’s to carry on with whatever mayhem they may wish within their borders. From this experience I had a rather positive view of Wallström since she had the guts to stand up to the theocracy. I may have this completely wrong.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            @Rickflick Sweden cancelled a defence agreement with Saudi Arabia worth billions of crowns following Wallströms criticism of Saudi’s human human rights record

            Since then Stefan Löfven has visited Saud & he claims that: “We have brought up issues such as women’s rights, the death penalty, even corporal punishment. We’re doing it in the way that we believe will have the greatest effect” – I suppose much of this comment by Löfven is media ‘soft soap’ because of course Sweden is interested in unfreezing Saudi relations for sound commercial & diplomatic reasons.

          • Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

            I think it was the Raif Badawi case; and Saudi Arabia was of course deeply offended by the suggestion not to beat publicly innocent people. Apart from making fuss on its own, it told its allies in the Arab League to stand against Sweden. And they did, including the Palestinians, whom Sweden had recognized a little before, angering Israel. (I recollect this without checking; if I’m wrong, please someone correct me.)

            • FiveGreenLeafs
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

              Quite accurate 😉

              But that is just one case…

          • FiveGreenLeafs
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

            My comment was in regard to @Historian argument and his argument about tact and diplomacy, and Sweden’s current ability in that regard.

            Whatever you can call Margot Wallström’s (MW) behavior, it is not diplomatic. As a Foreign Minister, she has been (in my opinion) a walking disaster as (I tried to) illustrated in my previous comment.

            What happened with Saudi Arabia is a case in point, because it exposes the hypocrisy so ruthlessly.

            She criticized the treatment of the blogger Raif Badawi and called Saudi Arabia a dictatorship. After this, Saudi Arabia canceled a talk that she was supposed to do at meeting of the Arab League which had come about due to the Swedish recognition of the Palestinian state.

            In response to this, MW again openly attacked the Saudi Arabia judicial system, and did not renew a military cooperation agreement between the countries.

            Saudi Arabia retaliated furiously, and recalled its ambassador, and foreign ministers from other Arab League members issued a joint statement condemning MW. A few days later Saudi Arabia announced that they would stop issuing business visas to Swedes, and not renew current ones.

            This caused great alarm within the Swedish business community and the fear of substantial economic losses which the country could ill afford. In short order Sweden made a complete 180 degree turn, and had to humiliate itself. Stefan Löfven had to publicly distance itself from MW, and the Swedish King, which have just ceremonial powers, had to write a letter.

            And she has continued to make such mistakes again and again, just the other day, she announced, that she had appointed a special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without telling the Israelis. That is (to my mind) perhaps something you can do if you are the USA…

            This is the difference between talking big, and bite the bullet, or turn around and flee when you have to own up to those words.

            If you are not prepared to face up to the consequences of your action, then you should perhaps not do it in the first place. The stupidity of this aught to be self evident. As true in the school ground as in politics.

            Analysis: Sweden vs Saudi Arabia or the triumph of realpolitik

            • rickflick
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

              Sounds a lot like the trump administration. But I do respect her general attitude toward theocracies. She’s perhaps just not practical in her opposition.

              • FiveGreenLeafs
                Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

                “Sounds a lot like the trump administration

                Had not thought about that, but it does to some degree, doesn’t it…

                “But I do respect her general attitude toward theocracies…”

                I think very many do, I mean the punishment and treatment of Raif Badawi was (and is) atrocious.

                But she also seem to think that the 120 Parisians who got gunned down or blown up at for example the Bataclan theatre in 2015, and the Israelis that get blown up on buses by Palestinians, have (in part) themselves to blame.

                And for me, this blaming of the victims, destroys any positive feeling I might otherwise have.

                “She’s perhaps just not practical in her opposition.”

                Now that, was diplomatically put… 🙂

    • Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      If the Swedish government compromises the country’s fundamental values to “get things done”, could it please spare the rest of us its moral posturing.

    • somer
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Well of course, Saudi is allied with America so its more “principled” to take a stand with them aka regressive leftists. But we don’t want to be islamophobic about Iran. Iran under the Ayatollahs is an execrable regime and Any deals they are doing with Iran are not worth it.

  9. Francisco
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    The problem is that the international boycott to Iran is finishing and that meant the possibility of billions in investments of occidental companies. Imagine that sweeden´s government tells to their voters: we defended women´s liberty to dress but we loose the Irainan (80million) market…
    Not being a dramatic human rights matter they cant risk that opportunity. I think thats the sweeden position. Far right extremists, important muslim minority in the country and terrorism related.
    Fear!!

  10. Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    By wearing hijabs in public in Iran, are the Swedish delegates expressing tacit approval for the idea that governments should be able to dictate the expression of religious apparel in public places?

    If we accept that a theocratic government in Iran is acting properly by enforcing religious dictates in the public square, would it then also be proper for a secular government to insist that secular clothing must be worn in the public square, and that religious clothing customs belong properly protected in the home and places of worship?

  11. Travis
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    “—and you get financially penalized if the dad doesn’t take leave”

    How exactly is this a good thing? This is social engineering that limits freedom. I’m all for equal opportunity for leave but why force it upon men if they don’t want to take it? Maybe they’re professors or post-docs or another type of position in which one doesn’t necessarily want to take a break?

    Surprised to see you agree that this is good policy.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      @Travis You should look up the Swedish policy on paternity leave before jumping to conclusions about how it is implemented! “Force it [parental leave] upon men” as you put it is NOT how it works. Men [& women] are free to carry on working if they so wish.

      If you’re going to reply to me, then take the trouble to read this first:
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/28/swedish-fathers-paid-paternity-parental-leave

      • Travis
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the correction. I was ignorant about how it worked and was responding to how Jerry had phrased it. Hopefully he sees this and can elaborate on what he meant or correct it.

  12. rickflick
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Alinejad is quite a hero. Swedish politicians seem to back down to Islamic states who can threaten to cut trade. With this display of “dress to please” they make themselves out as greedy fools.

  13. Eric Grobler
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I find the principle of a “femimist government” highly troublesome.

    If people in Sweden voted for a women dominated parliament just because feminism is in the vogue I am disappointed.

    The whole point of gender equality is that you ignore the person’s gender and evaluate them on their merit/personality.

    It was also distrubing during the US election that people argued that Hilliary should be elected because she is a women.

  14. Anthony
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    What if Iran required the visiting women to undergo FGM at the border? Sorry ladies, “one can hardly come here and break the laws”.

    • eric
      Posted February 20, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Then I’m sure Sweden’s delegation would either have insisted the meeting be held elsewhere, not held it, or had an all-male team.

      But that’s not the rule that was actually in place.

      • Posted February 20, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        I doubt that the rule that males do not shake a female’s hand is anything more than an unwritten custom either.

  15. Mike Anderson
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    On the one hand, from my cultural context it seems backwards and sexist to require women to dress a certain way. On the other hand, the U.S. (and I suspect most countries) have sexist dress codes/laws. In many parts of the U.S. a woman would get arrested for going bare chested where a man wouldn’t. If a delegation from Nudidia were to come to the U.S. the women would be expected to keep their breast covered in public, even in recreational settings where men wouldn’t.

    I feel very confident that in a general sense Western countries are more enlightened than most, especially the Middle East, but we’re not all *that* enlightened. The Iranian sexist dress codes aren’t significantly different from the West’s.

    • fizziks
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes they are. Iran’s female dress code is much more restrictive and restricting and impedes participating in normal activities that men can such as athletics. A woman in Iran could not, for example, wear running shorts to exercise on a hot day or to play basketball. Plus you glossed over the whole part where the women are not allowed to shake hands with the men. There is no equivalent in the West.

      Your post contains disgusting moral equivalency.

  16. Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s not very long ago that there was an official visit by Iranian politicians to France; and the Iranian visitors demanded that no wine should be served at the official dinner. In France. The host country. And incidentally a country where wine is an important part of their culture. And even though water and soft drinks would also have been available to the Iranian guests.

    To their credit, the French cancelled the dinner rather than accede to this unreasonable demand.

  17. Charles Minus
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Women cannot win this battle alone. Men have to stand in solidarity. What I want to see is a group of men wearing hijabs and refusing to shake hands with these characters who do not want to touch women. In case someone thinks I am joking – absolutely not.

    • Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      This is an interesting proposition. It would certainly make a bold statement. On the one hand, you wouldn’t be violating any local laws (say this happened in Iran), but on the other hand, you would be making an obvious statement of solidarity. I like it.

      • Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        I am a woman, and I disapprove the submissive gesture of Swedish female officials.

        First, I think the world does too little to support secularism and democracy in Iran. At best, we try to slow down the regime’s armament in order to protect ourselves, letting it do with Iranians and other people in the region whatever it wishes. So I’d prefer fewer deals with Iran.

        Second, if the Swedes had to deal, I think they should have sent an all-male delegation and make it clear why they do so.

        I also think Sweden lets down even its own women. Right-wing sources say that immigrants commit a lot of rapes and Swedish authorities, instead of addressing the problem, try to cover it up.

        • Posted February 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, posted at the wrong place.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          @mayamarkov you write: “…Right-wing sources say that immigrants commit a lot of rapes and Swedish authorities, instead of addressing the problem, try to cover it up”

          In what way are they not “addressing the problem”? In what way are they covering it up? Are the authorities burying rape statistics?

          I’m glad you put in the “Right-wing sources” part! It has been Sweden’s unwritten policy for some years of avoiding naming the ethnicity of criminals in news reports. The entire population of Sweden is comparable in numbers to that of Greater London & they’ve made the mistake of taking in far too many lone immigrants rather than say immigrant family groups. I suspect what is happening is that “the authorities” are trying to cool a gunpowder keg that has been substantially heated by “right-wing sources.”

          Thus we have the situation that arose in January 2016 where for everyday crimes such as burglary, it was advised that basic information such as ethnicity, nationality & skin colour are not to be given in information released to the public by the Swedish police on their website – “we want to avoid pointing out ethnic groups as criminal” [Mr Gyllander a Stockholm police press officer]. As you can imagine Breitbart, The Daily Mail & other “right-wing sources” having been making hay with that ever since & exaggerating how that policy plays out in practise!

          And yet what happens a few months later? We have the Swedish music festival rapes/sexual assaults laid exclusively [& wrongly] at the feet of immigrants: https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/jul/06/swedish-festival-rapes-migrants-wrong-dangerous

          I think I understand why such a small place as Sweden is tip toeing around race/ethnicity & it is probably wise for them to do so – I don’t see it as a cover up at all

          • Posted February 19, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I meant exactly what you are writing: that there is an official policy of silence about the immigration status and the group identity of perpetrators. This in fact means a denial that some groups could be problematic, and it makes impossible any policy addressing the problems, be it working with particular groups of immigrants or restricting immigration from particular countries, because the raw empirical data that could underlie such a policy are not collected and reported. Even if some culture is viciously misogynist, the priority of Swedish authorities will be to protect this culture, pushing females under the bus in the process.
            I read the Guardian report in the link, and it very well illustrates the problem. A quote:

            “The police later admitted that only two of the seven men or boys arrested for the Putte i Parken incidents were from HVB homes – residential homes for young people, often refugees without parents. ”

            “Only” 2 out of 7! I am impressed! And please pay attention that we are told nothing about the identity of the other 5 suspects.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              The raw empirical data on ethnicity etc. is collected. When an agency such as the police is communicating internally or with other interested law agencies ethnicity is not hidden. In my original comment to you I made it clear I was speaking of the police public website only.

              Regarding the music festivals it was a police website that identified ALL the perpetrators as “foreign young men” & I have no way of knowing if this is true or not. It is highly likely that the vast majority/All were young, male, Afghan immigrants going by press reports only, but I’m familiar with the unreliability of an agenda-driven press. I cannot find news about what happened to the seven young men since although I’ve looked around. I take this to mean they were not prosecuted or I’m poor at searching Swedish websites.

              • FiveGreenLeafs
                Posted February 19, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

                “I think I understand why such a small place as Sweden is tip toeing around race/ethnicity & it is probably wise for them to do so – I don’t see it as a cover up at all”

                Yes, Sweden is a small place, which also means that if anything happens, most people will get to know about quite rapidly, one way or the other.

                Not being honest and open about it, will just sow suspicion, skepticism and ultimately political contempt, and break down social capital and trust within the society.

                And, even if Sweden don’t collect, aggregate and openly publish data on crime and ethnicity, Denmark and Norway does.

                We know from this data that (in all probability) virtually 100% of all rapes with more than one perpetrator are committed by immigrants, for example, and that immigrants, are significantly overrepresented when it comes to crimes, and also which groups, because it varies significantly between for example Thailand and Somalia.

                Indvandrere i Danmark 2016

                From Statistics Denmark (Danmarks Statistik), the Danish governmental organization under the Ministry for Economic and Interior Affairs.

            • FiveGreenLeafs
              Posted February 19, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

              mayamarkov,

              Yes, who were the other five…

              It has all become a big (sick) joke today, when you read the police descriptions, for wanted criminals in newspapers… (stylized examples)

              version 1: Man, around 185cm high, with blond hair cut short, blue eyes, a prominent scar on the left cheek and a tattoo of an eagle upon the right arm, slim build, speak Swedish, and was dressed in a black jacket, blue Levis jeans, and white Adidas shoes.

              version 2: Man, with a black jacket and blue jeans, with white Adidas shoes

              I don’t think you have to be Einstein to figure that one out.

              And people wonder why the Swedish police has become increasingly worse at solving crimes…

              (More serious, there are several reasons why police efficiency has decreased, but many crimes are solved through tips and information from the society.)

    • Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      I think it possible that Iranian males would take this gesture as being an outer representation of visiting males’ femininity. Or, that Swedish males are ridiculing Iran’s policies re women. Might be dangerous.

      While I hate Middle Eastern dress codes for women, I have to wonder whether these decisions were made at state government levels as to appropriate women’s dress for the country being visited. At an individual level, these women had the right to dress as they wished, but the situation may have precluded individual choice (unless the person was willing to accept the consequences.)

      We (in the US) over the years have conducted diplomacy and discussions with many countries that were/are not democratic and, definitely not feminist.

      I find it as repulsive to require women to wear bags as it is to “require” women in western countries to wear sexually explicit clothing.
      Both are reactions from opposite ends of the spectrum to a normal human sex drive. Both make the assumption that men think women are only good for sex. In one direction, women must prevent lust in males. In the other, they are to incite it.

  18. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Here’s Linde deferring to the custom that women not shake hands with men—in this case, Iranian President Rouhani

    Seems to me this photo could be more accurately captioned “Here’s Rouhani refusing to offer his hand to Linde.” Are you suggesting that Linde should have reached out and grabbed it anyway, perhaps provoking an intervention by Rouhani’s bodyguard?

    • Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      I would say Linde adopting the subservient Iranian custom of a woman putting her hand over her heart is deferring. Just as Rouhani did not offer his hand, she could have made no gesture.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted February 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Fair enough; I’ll agree that no gesture would have been better.

        But insisting on a handshake from someone who does not want to give one (if that’s what Jerry was getting at) would not be better. In my opinion, any shame arising from the lack of a handshake properly belongs to Rouhani, not to Linde.

        • Posted February 19, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          I won’t defend handshaking. It is the flu virus’s way of spreading more flu viruses. If both men and women greet each other with a hand over heart, I would have no problem. In fact I’d prefer it to handshaking myself.

          • nicky
            Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

            Don’t the Chinese traditionally shake their own hands? No religious rules there though.

  19. Posted February 19, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Iran has laws of no choice and the Swedes made a choice. I only hope these Swedish women know and have sorted it out in their own heads… how would I know. If feminism is a pervasive force in Swede society it would seem they could opt out without being penalized, given the requirements of their visit to Iran.
    Diplomacy and trade vs religion, never going to be easy… and given what S Pinker has written on the role of trading across borders and it’s role in the civilizing process, perhaps this is bigger than gender discrimination In the long game.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      @laingholm I agree wholeheartedly on your trading point! Using trade sanctions as a political tool has a tendency to hit the innocent hardest & entrench positions. It’s a very blunt weapon that is wielded [especially by the U.S.] far to freely IMO.

      • Harrison
        Posted February 20, 2017 at 4:38 am | Permalink

        This is the same as the argument that restrictions and regulations on wealthy industries hurt the poor by inflicting higher prices. Refusing to build a sweatshop in China technically means that the desperate ex-farmers who turn up in cities to be exploited for pennies a day are instead just going to turn up to make nothing a day.

        There’s not really any way to craft a policy that only punishes the leaders of a nation without affecting its populace.

        • Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          The thrust of my post was to keep communicating by all means possible as it is desirable and a progressive state such as Sweden is a good model for a country like Iran.
          It will of course take a monumental shift for Iran to be ‘like’ Sweden but incremental nudging of the current religious and political environment is possible.
          It is not the total answer, there never is but part of.. it is a very wide view i hold for sure.
          darwinwins below calls it groveling i’ll call it ‘composure’ on the part of the Swedes at least till i know better. It took the west a damn long time and we are still at, civilizing.

  20. Posted February 19, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I am in favor of trying to engage Iran, but this is unmitigated groveling. Why should any self-respecting democracy feel the need to grovel before Iran’s leaders?

  21. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    This is worth a read regarding the arrest of Ahmadreza Djalali, an expert in disaster medicine. He was arrested while en route from Tehran to the city of Karaj in April – he was in the country to attend workshops about disaster medicine at the University of Tehran & Shiraz University: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/world/middleeast/ahmadreza-djalali-iran-arrest.html?_r=0

    On 31 January, he was taken before Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, without his lawyer present, where the presiding judge told him that he was accused of ‘espionage’ and could face the death penalty – the authorities have yet to issue an indictment and schedule a trial.” Djalali, 45, is a resident of Stockholm where he has a wife & two children.

    I assume this *might* be Iran sending a message to the Swedish government – it is their style to use ‘pawns’ in this way

  22. Kevin
    Posted February 19, 2017 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    The men should have worn hijabs too. In fact every nation should never visit any predominantly Islamic country without hijabs, men included. It will mock their oppressive tradition.

    • nicky
      Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Now that is a creative idea! Would love (or maybe not 😲) to see the reaction….

      • Posted February 19, 2017 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

        Maseh Alinejad of My Stealthy Freedom has already done it and spread the pix on social media. Persian Dada, except brave, and makes a point worth making.

        Unlike the wearing Milo’s punk paedophiliac Dada, 40 years too late, aimed at enraging The Guardian rather than the Daily Mail.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 20, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      “I’m Sparticus!”

  23. Kelly
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Coming from a woman living in the West, this is disheartening. If I was a woman living in Iran, I can’t imagine the betrayal I would feel. Who’s left to speak up for them? Here in Canada, it’s all about embracing diversity, and the oppression of women under Islamic Law is off the table for discussion. In fact Canadian parliament is currently debating Motion 103 to eradicate all Islamophobia without defining what that even is. Of course those that oppose this, are painted as racists. Media never covers any of those Muslims that also oppose this motion and who have escaped from countries that have blasphemy laws. These women risk their lives to speak out and we silence them here. For shame.

  24. Pierluigi Ballabeni
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Nothing new under the sun. The same happened a few years ago when the president of Switzerland, an otherwise progressive woman, visited Iran and signed some trade agreements. She too was criticized for wearing a hijab. I guess that when money matters principles become secondary concerns.

  25. GaleStorm
    Posted February 20, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    As a US citizen and feminist, I have little knowledge of the details of Swedish diplomacy and this particular visit. However, I’ve visited Iran during the comparatively relaxed Khatami presidency as an American tourist and have some perspective on Westerners in Iran.

    Female visitors are, in fact, expected to entirely cover their hair and wear long coats. The photos of these Swedish women show them wearing very “liberal” hijab–with scarves pushed back to show a lot of hair, and many women wearing very short coats, at upper thigh length. This signals a very progressive approach pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in the Iranian dress code. Likewise, the hand on heart gesture conveys sincerity, not necessarily deference. (Anyone know if Rouhani returned the gesture? If he didn’t, it might indicate an imbalance of respect.)

    We all have feminist and humanist ideals, but just as not all cultures are the same, not all feminisms are the same either. What may be a sign of subjugation in the West (any hijab) could in fact be a signal of a more liberated women in the Iranian context (a loose scarf shoved back far on the head). Feminism in Afghanistan will look very different than feminism in Singapore or the United States. Western societies didn’t achieve their level of freedoms and human rights in a day–it took us decades and centuries to get to where we are, and God knows we’re still working on things like LGBT rights and reproductive freedom in the US. I’m not arguing moral relativism for things like FGM, honor killings or jailing/murdering LGBT people or people of other religions, but those are the things worth making a stand for. I’m not so sure that wearing a coat and a loose scarf is a hill worth dying on.

    This goes both ways though. Kudos to the French for cancelling their dinner rather than avoid serving wine. And no kudos to the Italians for draping their fine art just to meet Iranian tastes. If Westerners meet Iranians on their grounds, they should be prepared to respect Western customs in turn.

    • Posted February 21, 2017 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      In the C18th some British diplomat refused to kowtow to the Emperor of China, then top country, thereby losing out on a trade deal. Britain rose, China fell. It turned out that China needed Britain much more than the other way around. So with Iran and Sweden: Sweden holds the cards here.

      Yet we have Swedish ‘feminists’ kowtowing to Rouhani (the alumnus of Glasgow Caledonian University) for the purposes of publicity across Iran: Persian girls, keep those hijabs on. Once on Swedish soil in their Embassy, the Swedish women took their hijabs off as they hosted the trade delegates but no pictures of the meeting were released in Persia. That is how they were complicit in theocratic propaganda.

      Still they got some trade deals on the sale of buses to Iran, almost literally throwing their Iranian sisters under the bus. And while on that subject, will they be city buses which have separate entrances for women and on which they have to sit at the back?

      The trade deal has not palliated Iran’s intimidation of its own women, even beyond its borders. Dorsa Derakhshani and her brother have just been banned from the Iranian chess team, she for playing without a hijab in Gibraltar, he for playing an Israeli Grandmaster. She is 18, he is 15.

      What are Iranian feminists to make of the skin-deep feminism of Sweden’s feminist government? And the infinite triviality of their Finance Minister and Equality Minister (and here satire dies) comparing wearing hats to the Iranian hijab laws and their thug morality police? This is Sweden, for goodness sake.

      The moral invertebracy of some western liberals never fails to shock. At least kowtowing implies the existence of a spine.

  26. Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I quail as well.

  27. Mike
    Posted February 21, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I take every opportunity to condemn Islam, because it is Islam that is at the root of all the problems with Muslims, it’s surprising how many believe this “Whoever disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad is worthy of death, and even if disrespects indirectly he is still worthy of death. Even if someone asks for forgiveness it is not acceptable.” I applaud Masih Alinejad.


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