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Let’s get this issue out of the way first: an American will find perhaps the most hospitable welcome they will receive anywhere when arriving in Iran. Just call the Persian, not Arab, and you’ll be embraced.
View from the Wing wrote about Air France in a dispute with its flight attendants over forcing them to work upcoming flights to Tehran and wear head scarves when on the land in Tehran. There should be a reasonable way to accommodate those who object.
One thing to note for those comparing to Saudi Arabia, as my wife and I learned in our visit (see my coverage here), is that women there are required to wear the abaya gown but not a headscarf. Many Southeast Asian female guest workers, in particular, we noticed often went about with head uncovered.
I visited Iran in 2009 and flew in on KLM’s Audrey Hepburn plane. That part of Air France KLM seemed to have no issue with accommodating flight attendants.
The flight was fascinating. At Amsterdam you have rarely seen an off-catwalk parade of so many beautiful, made up women. None too many headscarves on display.
Around an hour out of Tehran there was a PA announcement in Farsi, not translated to Dutch to English.
Immediately women began getting up, rummaging in overhead bins, queuing for the bathroom. By the time we landed every one had donned headscarf. Though bangs peeked out and buns bulged to make sure everyone knew they had stylish hair. I saw the same throughout my 9-day visit.
After two days in an abaya in Saudi Arabia my wife observed, “Abaya make men crazy, look at their eyes.” Indeed, those Iranian bangs turn heads.
For all the reputation that goes with the name ‘Islamic Republic’ and the media coverage, I found Iran the most cosmopolitan place I have visited in the region. Those over 50 remember a liberal society.
I respect Air France flight attendants for taking their stand. Those that fly will find many sisters in arms.
I hope the opening and social liberalization of Iran, a return to a half-century ago, will pick up pace as global connections are renewed.