CNN International CEO Christiane Amanpour said that the President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi at the last minute asked her to wear a headscarf as a “matter of respect” in an interview scheduled for Wednesday night, prompting her to “politely decline” the “unprecedented status and his surprise”.
Raisi later withdrew from the long-planned interview.
With anti-government protests raging on the streets of Iran following the death of a young woman in police custody, Amanpour hopes to inform Raisi of the news in her first interview on American soil. The tough Iranian leader was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
In one of the biggest showdowns against the Islamic Republic in years, protests broke out following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody after her arrest last weekend by Tehran’s so-called “moral police”. She was detained for allegedly violating an Iranian law that requires women to wear headscarves in public. Iranian officials announced the 22-year-old woman died of a “heart attack”.
Amanpour, who grew up in Tehran and speaks Farsi, told CNN’s New Day on Thursday morning that she had always adhered to the headscarf and other local customs when reporting in Iran, adding that “you cannot function as a journalist”.
Note that Raisi is done a recent interview with CBS News’ 60 minutes where “the headscarf is an issue,” Amanpour added, adding that no other Iranian president—“whether inside or outside of Iran”—has ever insisted she must cover her head in an interview.
The veteran journalist said the interview had been planned for weeks and they had spent hours setting up lights and cameras only to have “no sign” of Raisi.
“Forty minutes after the interview started, an aide arrived,” she tweeted on Thursday morning. “The president, he said, asked me to wear the hijab, because it was the holy month of Muharram and Safar.”
She added: “I politely declined. We are in New York, where there are no laws or traditions regarding the hijab. I pointed out that none of the previous Iranian presidents asked for this when I interviewed them outside of Iran.”
Amanpour explained that the aide said the interview would not take place unless she was wearing a headscarf, telling her it was a “matter of respect” while referring to the “situation in Iran”. – a clear allusion to widespread protests.
“Again, I say that I cannot agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition,” she said. “And so we left. The interview did not take place. As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it will be an important time to speak with President Raisi. “
Asked on New skinAmanpour said she considers this to be Raisi looking for an excuse to avoid discussing the protests at home, Amanpour said she “can’t prejudge it” as the interview goes on in the schedule before abrupt withdrawal.
“I think if I could guess how it reads, I think he doesn’t want to be seen with a woman without a hijab at this point,” she concluded. “Maybe because he calls it religious month, or because people will say why did he sit down with a foreign journalist who doesn’t wear a hijab in Iran. “