Air France Stewardesses Rebel Over Tehran’s Forced Headscarf Plan

A demand by Tehran that Air France stewardesses wear headscarves while in Iran has been met with a firm ‘non’ by staff at the French national carrier.

The airline resumes flights to Iran’s capital later this month after the relaxation of sanctions and female members of flight crews have been ordered to cover their hair once they disembark in Tehran. Unions are demanding that the flights be made voluntary for women and are challenging the idea because female staff remain entitled to exercise “individual freedoms”.

The Daily Telegraph reports a thrice-weekly service between Paris and Tehran is planned to begin on April 17 after an eight-year break. The airline announced in December the resumption of the service after they were suspended in 2008 when Iran was hit with international sanctions designed to curb its nuclear ambitions.

Iranian women have been forced by law to cover their hair or face stiff fines since the 1979 Islamic revolution. In staunchly secular France, however, public signs of religion have been discouraged since a 1905 law separating church and state.

Flore Arrighi, head of the UNAC flight crews’ union, told the Telegraph: “It is not our role to pass judgement on the wearing of headscarves or veils in Iran. What we are denouncing is that it is being made compulsory. Stewardesses must be given the right to refuse these flights.”

She added that female staff were entitled to exercise “individual freedoms” and should not be made to submit to the demands of Islam.

“Every day we have calls from worried female cabin crew who tell us that they do not want to wear the headscarf,” said Christophe Pillet of the SNPNC union, adding that is members are asking Air France management to make it a voluntary measure.

Company chiefs sent out a memo informing female staff they would be required “to wear trousers during the flight with a loose fitting jacket and a scarf covering their hair on leaving the plane”, Mr Pillet said.

According to Mr Pillet, management raised he possibility of “penalties” for anyone refusing to observe the dress code.

Air France told the AFP news agency that all air crew were “obliged like other foreign visitors to respect the laws of the countries to which they travelled”.

“Iranian law requires that a veil covering the hair be worn in public places by all women on its territory,” the airline said.

“This obligation, which does not apply during the flight, is respected by all international airlines which fly to Iran.”

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