While it puts on a moderate face when dealing with the West, Iran is still going strong stirring up controversy over women’s rights in the country – or, more accurately, the lack thereof.
The most recent controversy involved not Iranian women, but French women as well – Air France flight attendants who refused to back down before the oppressive demands and limitations dictated to the airline by the Islamic Republic, “revolting” in order to demand their rights and freedoms on Iranian soil (and airspace, if you will).
Air France is set this month to resume its Paris-Tehran route following the removal of international sanctions, after initially suspending flights to Iran in 2008.
Earlier this month, the French airline ordered female cabin crew manning its new Paris-Tehran route to wear long-sleeved uniforms rather than a knee-length dress, as well as don a headscarf upon arrival in Iran. After several female flight attendants objected to “covering up,” crew unions petitioned the company over the “illegal” demand. Following the “uproar,” Air France agreed to allow female cabin crew to refuse to work the new route without facing “sanctions” (pun intended?). It did not, however, relax the dress code, even though the flight attendants described the requirements as “true threats to their dignity.”
While a campaign is launched by more than forty NGO’s and more than 75 International cartoonists calling for the release of Iranian artist Atena Ffarghadani, and while Iranian blogger Hossein Maleki declares a hunger strike (as reported in IranWire) Air France thinks that business can go on as usual.
The airline’s flight attendants may have lost the headscarf battle, but they won the war over designating the route as voluntary – having gotten a taste of what it means to be a woman in Iran, they won’t have to fly there if they don’t want to. Iranian women and political activists, however, have no such choice: they still have to live with the limitations imposed upon them, the marginalized position of second-class citizens into which they are forced and prison sentences imposed upon them for their activism.