Iran leader shuns Christiane Amanpour interview over refusal to wear headscarf

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi has canceled an interview with senior CNN correspondent Christian Amanpour in New York after he refused to wear a headscarf at his request.

In a series of tweets, CNN’s chief international anchor said she was scheduled to meet Raisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, and planned to ask him about a variety of topics, including the outbreak of protests in Iran . The custodial death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested and beaten up by the “ethics police” for violating headscarf laws.

“During his visit to NY for the United Nations General Assembly, this was going to be President Raisey’s first interview on American soil. After weeks of planning and eight hours of installing translation equipment, lights and cameras, we were ready. But President There is no sign of Raisi,” Amanpur tweeted on Thursday.

Forty minutes after the interview began, a colleague contacted Amanpour and told him that Raisi was “making suggestions. [she] Wear a headscarf, as it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar”, she wrote.

Amanpour said she declined the request, explaining that “we are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves”. He added that no other Iranian president is required to wear a headscarf when interviewing him outside Iran.

Christian Amanpour: ‘We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding scarves.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

“The aide made it clear that the interview wouldn’t happen if I didn’t wear a headscarf. He said it was ‘a matter of honour’, and mentioned the ‘situation of Iran’ – alluding to widespread protests in the country,” Amanpour said.

“Again, I said I could not agree with this unprecedented and unexpected situation.”

As a result, Amanpour and his team left and the interview did not take place. A photo posted at the end of his tweet showed Amanpour wearing a white suit, his hair open, sitting in an empty chair while waiting for the Iranian president.

And so we went. Interview did not happen. As protests continue and people are being killed in Iran, talking with President Raisi would have been an important moment. 7/7

— christian amanpour (@amanpour) 22 September 2022

There was widespread praise online for the British-Iranian journalist’s refusal to wear a headscarf.

“Good for @amanpour. The days when Iranian officials required female journalists and officials to wear hijabs to take interviews and meetings should be over. Forced hijab reflects outdated and intolerant ideology, not culture. tweeted Karim Sajjadpour, an Iranian-American policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, a DC-based thinktank.

NPR radio host Esther Siamachilli retweeted Amanpour’s photo, Writing, “What do they mean when they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ The integrity of Christian Amanpour is completely intact.”

Bahman Kalbasi, the New York and UN correspondent for the BBC’s Persian Service, echoed similar sentiments, Tweet: “Raisi does not come for an interview with CNN after Kristian Amanpour refuses to wear the regime’s hijab. It seems that the Iranian regime’s president thinks he can wear the hijab in NYC as well. #mahasamini,

A woman holds a poster containing two pictures of a young woman.  The woman in the picture below is on a hospital bed.
A protester in New York City holds a photo of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in Iran. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

During a briefing with reporters on Thursday morning, Raisi was repeatedly asked about Amini’s death, which Iranian officials initially tried to limit to the topic of talks on Iran’s nuclear deal with the West.

Raisi reiterated official claims that Amini had died of a heart attack or stroke while in custody, adding that similar deaths in custody had occurred in the US and UK.

At least three women who attended the briefing were not wearing scarves. A New York Times reporter was barred from the briefing to report that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was seriously ill.

In a statement released on Thursday, a New York Times spokesperson said: “Iranian state media has reported comments made by an official in its coverage of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to a New York Times correspondent for attending a press conference. Must ‘accept the mistake’. With President Raisi.”

“We stand by our reporting by Farnaz Fassi on the health of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which was confirmed by senior sources. Iranian officials were given a chance to comment on our story and decided not to respond,” the spokesperson said.

At least 31 people have died in the six days of protests since Amini’s death. Iranian women are taking to the streets and the internet to cover their heads and cut their hair.

“A law that tramples on human dignity is not a common law,” Told A female protestor.

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