Air France's female flight attendants are refusing to wear headscarves when the airline resumes service to Tehran, Iran.
On April 18, Air France will once again fly to Tehran, Iran, after an eight-year break in service. The company has told female flight attendants they must cover their hair with a headscarf when they disembark in the city, The Telegraph reports.
Because of the requirement, the Union des Navigants de l’Aviation Civile is demanding that Air France make the flights voluntary for female flight attendants, without penalty related to pay or schedules.
The headscarf requirement and clothing limitations, which mandates female flight attendants wear pants and a loose-fitting jacket when flying to Tehran, are “true threats to their dignity,” UNAC wrote in a letter to Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for women’s rights and families, according to Mashable.
The Syndicat National du Personnel Navigant Commercial union has also denounced the new rule, stating it is “an attack on freedom of conscience and individual freedoms, and invasion of privacy.”
In Iran, woman have had to cover their hair or pay a fine since 1979, The Telegraph notes. In France, it is illegal to wear a face-covering veil in public, and headscarves are banned in French state schools and offices.
“It is not our role to pass judgment 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,” Flore Aright, head of UNAC, said.
A spokesman for Air France said other airline staff were obliged to comply with Iranian rules, as “tolerance and respect for the customs of the countries we serve are part of the values of our company.”
The airline says French law allows “the restriction of individual liberties” if “justified by the nature of the task to be accomplished."
The headscarf rule for Air France flights to Tehran is not new. Before flights ceased in 2008, it was part of the airline’s dress code policy.
"Iranian law requires that a veil covering the hair be worn in public places by all women on its territory," the airline told Agence France-Presse, according to Mashable. "This obligation, which does not apply during the flight, is respected by all international airlines that fly to Iran."
Female flight attendants have also been told to refrain from smoking in public while in Iran, but male attendants were not told the same, according to UNAC’s letter to Rossignol.