Iran: Sweden’s ‘Feminist’ Government Submits

by Andrew Stuttaford

From the Swedish government’s website:

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. This is a human right and a matter of democracy and justice.

And then this happened.

BBC:

The Swedish government has defended its decision to have its officials wear headscarves during a trip to Iran, saying that failing to do so would have broken the law. Trade Minister Ann Linde led a business team last week and faced criticism for wearing a headscarf, or hijab.

A prominent Iranian women’s rights activist and Swedish politicians have criticised the decision.

“It is ruinous to what is called a feminist foreign policy” said Liberal party chief Jan Bjorklund, who said Iran oppressed women through legislation.

The Swedish government should have requested that female members of the delegation should not have been required to wear a headscarf, he said, and that if the request were not granted any trade agreements should have been signed in Sweden or a third country.

But Ms Linde told the Aftonbladet newspaper that she was not willing to break Iranian law. She said that since the only other option would be to send an all-male delegation, she was required to wear a headscarf.

UN Watch has been on this story from the beginning. In one post (take the time to take a look at the photos it includes of the Swedish delegation, clad not only in headscarves, but wearing long coats indoors) UN Watch notes how “Sweden’s female leaders ignored the recent appeal by Iranian women’s right activist Masih Alinejad who urged Europeans female politicians ‘to stand for their own dignity’ and to refuse to kowtow to the compulsory Hijab while visiting Iran.”

By contrast:

[In] the same week as the Swedes wore their Hijabs, Tehran hosted the world competition in women’s chess, a number of young female chess champions from around the world gave up their chance to win a world prize because they refused to submit to the required Hijab and Iran’s discrimination against women.

And then:

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.

Sweden’s foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, an unimpressive, notoriously dogmatic character with an unfortunate weakness for groupthink who (naturally!) previously served as an EU commissioner, defended her colleagues’ collective kowtow by drawing a comparison between their wearing the hijab on a trade mission and wearing a kippah when visiting a synagogue. That’s a comparison that fails to draw a distinction between a place of worship and a nation, a distinction, of course, that Iran’s theocrats deny, with, it would now seem, Wallstrom’s support if, perhaps, only accidentally: She has something of a track record of — how shall I put this — clumsiness.

So what was going on here? Partly it was simply a matter of business. Follow the money: The Swedes wanted those trade deals, and if that meant selling out Iran’s oppressed women, that was just too bad.

But there was something else at play too. The gesture of “respect” by the government team to the Iranian theocracy was also a form of virtue-signaling to people back home, a message to signify their openness to customs very alien to the traditions of their native land (although, in the light of the way that Sweden ran its immigration policy in recent years, that may change), an openness that, in the end, slammed a door in the face of freedom.

I don’t want to go all Godwin on you (and the comparison is very far from exact), but here, via Vice, is a story from 1938:

[o]n 14 May 1938, the English national football [soccer] team played Germany in front of 110,000 spectators at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. It was the opening game of their tour of Europe and began with a powerful political statement.

Top-ranking Nazis such as Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and Joseph Goebbels were in attendance for the match, though Hitler himself was not present. When the German national anthem was played before the game, England’s players raised their arms to give the Nazi “Heil Hitler” salute.

Then as now, sport and politics were inextricably linked. The English players had been instructed before the match that they should give the salute, with the order coming direct from the Foreign Office. It was later reported that the team initially refused, only for the British Ambassador to Germany, Sir Neville Henderson, to intervene. Using FA Secretary Stanley Rous (later FIFA President) as an intermediary, Henderson told the team to give the salute for the sake of Anglo-German relations.

Just showing respect, of course.

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