As Air France prepares to resume thrice-weekly service between Paris and Tehran, Air France’s female flight attendants are objecting to orders that they must wear headscarves once they get off the plane in Tehran. The airline has pointed out that they and other airline staff are obliged to comply with Iranian law — it has been illegal for Iranian women to leave their hair of face uncovered since 1979 — but in staunchly secular France many women consider the headscarf an attack on their dignity. For flights to Tehran, female staff would also have to wear long trousers rather than skirts both in-flight and during stopovers. They also would not be allowed to smoke in public during stopovers, a restriction not applicable to male staff.
Flight crews’ unions are asking that the Tehran flights be made voluntary without penalties for staff, deductions from wages or consequences for their careers. “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,” said Flore Arrighi, head of the UNAC flight crews’ union. UNAC has also written to the minister for women’s rights and families, Laurence Rossignol, who last month controversially compared women who wear Islamic headscarves to “negroes who supported slavery.”