Iran President Ebrahim Raisi reportedly cancelled an interview with CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour in New York after she claimed to have turned down his request to wear a headscarf. Taking to Twitter, the chief international anchor of CNN said in a series of posts how she was scheduled to meet Raisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, but decided to walk away after the “unprecedented and unexpected condition” set by Raisi for the interview.
In her tweets, Amanpour wrote that she had planned to ask the Iranian president, among other topics, the ongoing protests in Iran following the custodial death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested and beaten by the “morality police” for allegedly violating hijab laws.
“This was going to be President Raisi’s first ever interview on US soil, during his visit to NY for UNGA. After weeks of planning and eight hours of setting up translation equipment, lights and cameras, we were ready. But no sign of President Raisi,” Amanpour posted.
According to her, 40 minutes after the interview was scheduled to begin, an aide came and told her that Raisi was “suggesting [she] wear a headscarf, because it’s the holy months of Muharram and Safar”.
Amanpour declined the request, saying “we are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves”. She also specified that no other Iranian president she interviewed outside Iran in the past had required that she wear a headscarf.
“The aide made it clear that the interview would not happen if I did not wear a headscarf. He said it was ‘a matter of respect’, and referred to ‘the situation in Iran’ – alluding to the protests sweeping the country,” Amanpour said. “Again, I said that I couldn’t agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition.”
The senior British-Iranian journalist and her team then walked away and the interview did not take place.
Amanpour posted a photo with her last tweet in the series in which she can be seen sitting alone, with her head uncovered, across an empty chair meant for Raisi.
And so we walked away. The interview didn’t happen. As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to speak with President Raisi. 7/7 pic.twitter.com/kMFyQY99Zh
— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) September 22, 2022
Praise For Amanpour
Amanpour’s firm decision not to heed to Raisi’s demand to wear a headscarf earned her much praise online.
Meanwhile, during a media briefing Thursday morning, Raisi was repeatedly asked about the death of the 22-year-old woman in custody, though Iranian officials had initially tried to confine it to negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal with the West, The Guardian reported.
Replying to the queries, Raisi reiterated the official claim that Amini died of a heart attack, and also said similar custodial deaths had occurred in the US and the UK too.
In Iran, at least 31 people have died over the last six days of agitation as security forces cracked down on the demonstrators protesting against Amini’s death. Videos shared on social media show protesting Iranian women burn their headscarves and cut their hair.