After she turned down a last-minute request to wear a head scarf, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi canceled a long-planned interview with CNN’s chief foreign anchor Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Raisi arrived for the interview 40 minutes late, and an aide informed Amanpour that the president had recommended she wear a head scarf. According to Amanpour, she “politely declined.”
Since she was raised in Tehran, the capital of Iran, and speaks fluent Farsi, Amanpour explained that she must abide by local laws and customs in order to report from Iran without donning a head scarf; “otherwise, you couldn’t operate as a journalist.”
However, she asserted that she would not wear a head covering while speaking with an Iranian official outside of a nation where doing so is not compulsory.
“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I have never been asked by any Iranian president — and I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995 — either inside or outside of Iran, never been asked to wear a head scarf,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” program Thursday.
“I very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN, and female journalists everywhere because it is not a requirement.”
Iranian law requires all women to wear a head covering and loose-fitting clothing in public. The rule has been enforced in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it is obligatory for every woman in the country — including tourists, visiting political figures and journalists.
Amanpour said that Raisi’s aide made clear that the interview — which would have been the Iranian president’s first on American soil — would not happen if she did not wear a head scarf. He referred to it as “a matter of respect,” given that it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar, and referred to “the situation in Iran,” alluding to the protests sweeping the country, she added.
Anti-government protests erupted across Iran last week over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody, after having been arrested by Iran’s morality police on an accusation of violating the law on head scarves.
Mahsa Amini’s family demands the truth about her death in police custody.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets, with some women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs in protest against the law. Human rights groups have reported that at least eight people have been killed in the demonstrations, which have been met with a sharp crackdown by authorities, according to witnesses and videos shared on social media.