Amanpour, Iranian president walk away from interview over head scarf dispute
CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi walked away from an interview in New York City on Wednesday following a dispute over Amanpour wearing a headscarf.
In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Amanpour said that she was slated to speak with Raisi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to ask him about the ongoing protests in Iran.
“Protests are sweeping Iran & women are burning their hijabs after the death last week of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the ‘morality police’. Human rights groups say at least 8 have been killed. Last night, I planned to ask President Raisi about all this and much more,” Amanpour wrote.
The interview, the CNN anchor said, would have been the first the Iranian president has conducted on U.S. soil. However, 40 minutes after the interview was supposed to start, Raisi’s aide came over to Amanpour and said that the president “was suggesting [she] wear a headscarf” because it was the holy months of Muharram and Safar.
“I politely declined. We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves. I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran,” she said.
“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,” she continued.
Protests have been raging across the country over a woman, Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after she was arrested in Tehran. According to NPR, Amini was arrested by Iran’s “morality police,” who enforce rules regarding head coverings in public.
Since then, images and videos have spread across the media of women burning hijabs and cutting their hair to raucous applause.
At least eight people have died in the protests thus far, according to Reuters.
Amanpour said that she couldn’t agree to “this unprecedented and unexpected condition.”
“And so we walked away,” she concluded. “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.”
Amanpour later told CNN’s “New Day” hosts that the dispute was “very unsettling.”
“We were going to have the first exclusive here in New York. He’d already done an interview in Iran with ’60 Minutes’ where the headscarf was also an issue. But there, because it is the custom, one always does wear the headscarf when one’s there, that’s just, otherwise you couldn’t operate as journalists,” she said.
“I have never been asked by any Iranian president, and I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995, either inside or outside Iran — never been asked to wear a headscarf.”
Updated at 10:57 a.m.