Sweden accused of double standards after minister wears headscarf in Iran

4:06 min

The Swedish government, which claims to have a 'feminist foreign policy,' was accused of hypocrisy and double standards on Monday after Trade Minister Ann Linde and female colleagues wore headscarves when meeting Iranian President Rouhani in Tehran at the weekend.

Sweden's feminist foreign policy, said to be the first of its kind in the world, was ridiculed by the NGO, UN Watch. It said Sweden had "sacrificed its principles and betrayed the rights of Iranian women." 

In Sweden, the leader of the Liberals, Jan Björklund, told news agency TT that wearing headscarves had sent out the wrong message.

"It sends the wrong message to women living under religious oppression in Sweden and abroad. The trade agreements which were signed in Tehran, could have been concluded elsewhere," Björklund said.

The criticism comes just days after Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin said the world should look to Sweden for leadership in standing up for women's rights, particularly when it comes to abortion and a woman's right to choose.

Amineh Kakabaveh is a member of the Left Party in Sweden. She knows what it is like to wear a headscarf, or hijab. She is a Kurd of Iranian descent. She tells Radio Sweden that she's angry and upset that Ann Linde and her colleagues abided by what she calls Iran's "gender apartheid."

"This is about a government that calls itself the first feminist government in the world, and we send top diplomats and officials to Iran, a country where gender apartheid is a fact," said Kakabaveh.

Sweden's EU and Trade Minister Ann Linde defended her decision to wear a headscarf at the weekend. In an interview with news agency TT, she said that they did not want to violate Iranian law. The Swedish delegation did express views about trade union rights and women's rights, she said. The only other option, she added, was to send an all-male delegation.