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Swiss Envoy’s Visit to Iranian Shrine Triggers “Hijab-Gate” Controversy


The head-to-toe black outfit worn by the Swiss envoy to Tehran during her visit to a Shia shrine this week has sparked outrage both inside and outside Iran, as the country has been swept by five months of nationwide protests demanding more freedoms and women’s rights.

The Iranian authorities have unleased a brutal crackdown on the anti-government protest movement, killing more than 520 people and illegally detaining over 19,000, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.

Hard-line Iranian media widely published photos showing Swiss Ambassador Nadine Olivieri Lozano meeting clerics in the central city of Qom on February 22. She was wearing a long black veil that covered her head and the rest of her body.

According to Iranian media, Olivieri Lozano’s visit was intended to familiarize herself with the Islamic culture, art and architecture of the shrine.

Kijan Espahangizi is a Swiss-Iranian historian at the University of Zurich and a member of the Free Iran Switzerland solidarity collective. He tells IranWire that the outcry caused by the pictures of Olivieri Lozano has been very strong among Swiss-Iranians.

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