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Dutch politician's outfit sparks indignation in Iran

Marietje Schaake has been in demand since her return from a trip to Iran with the European Parliament. She wore clothes meeting Iran's dress code, but hardliners were still aghast at a glimpse of hair, neck and ears.

MEP Marietje Schaake of the Netherlands stirred criticism among Iranian hardliners after showing up in Tehran with some of her hair visible under a headscarf. Schaake was visiting Iran as a part of a European Parliament delegation over the weekend.

The seven-person diplomatic team met with Iranian vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar, foreign minister Mohamad Javad Zarif and other high-ranking officials. The diplomatic move, organized by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, comes amid a diplomatic thaw between Tehran and Western powers.

The visit, however, still stirred controversy among Islamic conservatives in Iran. The 36-year old Dutch lawmaker Schaake showed up wearing a headscarf which didn't completely cover her hair, on a Saturday meeting with the head of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani.

The outfit, including leggings and a tight coat, was self-chosen, according to the "New York Times".

All women, including foreign diplomats, are obliged to cover their heads while in Iran.

A noted Iranian conservative, Mahdi Kouchakzadeh, commented that Schaake looked as if "she were going to a party," according to Germany's "Der Spiegel". The hardliner also noted on his Instagram page that her neck and ears were uncovered, too.

"It is as if she is wearing underwear", Kouchakzadeh wrote.

Several conservative websites joined in the outrage, attacking the foreign minister Zarif for allowing the European "carnival" into the country, according to the New York Times.

"As a woman, a visit to a country where wearing a religious symbol is mandatory is difficult," Schaake wrote on her blog.

"A serious discussion about what is and is not appropriate and respectful should not only be held over the heads of women," she said, stressing that the debate on visitors obeying religious laws has already started in Iran.

"I noticed conservatives also considered the way I dressed to be disrespectful and even ‘uncultured'. Many kind reactions also came in response, particularly of women in Iran who wish they had the freedom to choose their expressions of religiosity and religious garments (...) It would be a shame to let this ‘controversy' overshadow the rest of the visit. But it would have been better for critics to notify me personally when they were in the same room with me, instead of via the media," Schaake wrote.

dj/msh (AFP, dpa)

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