Bahai News - U.N. rights chief says Islamic headscarf protest was mistake
U.N. rights chief says Islamic headscarf protest was mistake
GENEVA (AP) -- Women who refused to wear headscarves at a United Nations
human rights meeting in Iran this week played into the hands of religious
conservatives, human rights chief Mary Robinson said Friday.
"Very conservative elements in Iran took advantage of the situation,"
Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told reporters.
"The situation in Iran is very tense between the conservatives and those who
want to see progressive change."
Two conservative Iranian newspapers, Kayhan and Resalat, on Tuesday
criticized female delegates who refused to wear headscarves, saying their
behavior was an "insult to Islam."
Robinson said the newspapers had taken "a lot of pleasure" in publishing
photographs showing women without headscarves and had used the issue to
attack the meeting itself.
Dozens of women participants had written to Robinson expressing
concern at the imposition of a dress code at the Asian Conference
Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related
Intolerance, which took place in Tehran.
"In a conference sponsored by the U.N., we don't want to be
subjected to a dress code," said delegate Abeyskera Sunila of Sri Lanka.
Robinson said wearing the scarf was not a matter of custom or
practice, but of strict law."
She said that Iranian women's groups had argued that women should have
respected Iran's culture and worn the scarf for the few days the conference
"I wore a scarf myself. I respected the fact that it was the law of the
But Robinson said she had made a formal protest to Iranian authorities after
what Iran claimed were "procedural and technical difficulties" prevented
members of two groups attending the conference.
Delegates from the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- a Jewish organization -- were
granted visas only hours before the three-day meeting, which closed Wednesday,
and were unable to make travel arrangements.
Visa applications by the Bahai International Community were not considered.
The Bahai faith was founded in Iran, but Bahais are now considered heretics
there and are not recognized in the Iranian constitution as a religious
"The Bahai delegates were given the run-around by Iran authorities," said
"I took a strong stand on this. It undermines all the values of
The Teheran conference was one of a series of regional meetings
taking place ahead of the U.N.'s World Conference against Racism,
which will be held in Durban, South Africa, in September. (jf-nk)
©Copyright 2001, Associated Press
Page last updated/revised 027001
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