Air France Orders Female Flight Attendants To Wear Headscarves In Iran

Air France female flight attendants are protesting a new order from the airline that they wear headscarves, loose clothing, and trousers when flying into Iran. The flight attendants union cites the dignity of women and secularism as a reason to strike when flights to Tehran resume later this month.

One flight attendant union, the Syndicat National du Personnel Navigant Commercial (SNPNC), blasted the airline, calling the dress code “an attack on freedom of conscience and individual freedoms, and invasion of privacy.”

The order not only imposed a stringent dress code of head and face scarves and loose clothes, but also instructed women flight attendants not to smoke in public spaces, a memo that did not reach their male counterparts.

In a letter to Laurence Rossignal, France’s minister for women’s rights and families, Air France’s flight crews through the Union des Navigants de l’Aviation Civile (UNAC) resisted the order enforcing the new dress code, demanding that all flights to Tehran that require these additional restriction on French women’s liberty be made voluntary for them.

According to AFP, Air France responded to the flight attendants’ mutiny saying that they were merely imposing Iranian law, that they 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.”

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

But it is not the dress code, but the enforcement of it upon all Air France’s female cabin crew flying to Iran, that the union is fighting. Flore Arrighi, head of the UNAC flight crews’ union, explained to 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.”

Here, Arrigh is emphasizing her point that this protest is not against the dress code and orders (which were made in compliance to Iranian law) themselves, but in the right of the Air France employees to refuse to work these flight paths.

The unions of Air France are demanding that female cabin crew be allowed to refuse any flights into Iran (because of the restrictions it imposes on their individual liberties) without any repercussions like reductions to their wages or consequences for their careers.

To this argument about individual liberties, Air France has replied that French law allows for “the restriction of individual liberties” if “justified by the nature of the task to be accomplished.”

Additionally, the airline stated that this dress code is not a new one. It was in place before service to Iran was cut in 2008, following international sanctions and negotiations related to the Iran’s nuclear program. International concerns that Iran was developing nuclear weapons led to a deterioration of relations between that country and France.

Come April 17, Air France will resume flights from Paris to Tehran, after an eight-year break following 2015’s historic Nuclear Deal between Iran and the West. This new opening of borders has already led to cultural clash as evidenced by the unwillingness of Air France’s French flight attendants to adopt Iran’s laws.

While Iran enforces head covering upon all women, France has banned all hijabs and full face veils, yet another testimony to the inherent difference between these two countries’ cultural ideals.

[Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/ Getty Images]