Iran leader shuns Christiane Amanpour interview over refusal to wear headscarf | Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has canceled an interview in New York with veteran CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour after she refused to wear the headscarf at his request.

In a series of tweets, CNN’s top international anchor said she was due to meet Raisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and planned to ask him about various topics, including the outbreak of protests in Iran following the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested and beaten by “vice police” for breaking headscarf laws.

“This was going to be President Raisi’s first-ever interview on American soil, during his visit to New York 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 tweeted Thursday.

Forty minutes into the scheduled start of the interview, an assistant approached Amanpour and told her that Raisi was “suggesting [she] wear a headscarf, as these are the holy months of Muharram and Safar,” she wrote.

Amanpour said he declined the request, explaining that “we are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding the headscarf.” She added that no other Iranian president has required her to wear a headscarf when she interviewed them outside of Iran.

Christiane Amanpour: “We are in New York, where there is neither law nor tradition concerning the headscarf. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

“The assistant specified that the interview would not take place if I was not wearing 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.

“Once again I have said that I cannot accept this unprecedented and unexpected condition.

As a result, Amanpour and his team walked away and the interview did not take place. A photo posted by Amanpour at the end of her tweets showed her wearing a white suit sitting across from an empty chair as she waited for the Iranian president with her hair uncovered.

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

— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) September 22, 2022


And so we walked away. The interview did not take place. As protests continue in Iran and people are killed, this would have been an important time to speak with President Raisi. 7/7

— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) September 22, 2022

The British-Iranian journalist’s refusal to wear a headscarf has drawn widespread praise online.

“Good for @amanpour. The days when Iranian officials required female journalists and officials to wear the hijab to get interviews and meetings should be over. Forced hijab reflects an outdated and intolerant ideology and not a culture,” tweeted Karim Sadjadpour, Iranian-American political analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based think tank.

NPR radio host Esther Ciammachilli retweeted Amanpour’s photo, writing, “What they mean when they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ Christiane Amanpour’s integrity is fully intact.

Bahman Kalbasi, New York and UN correspondent for the BBC’s Persian Service, echoed similar sentiments, Tweeter“Raisi fails to appear for CNN interview after Christiane Amanpour refuses to don regime hijab. The president of the Iranian regime seems to think that he can also impose the hijab in New York. #MahsaAmini.”

A woman is holding a poster that shows two portraits of a young woman.  In the bottom photo, the woman is in a hospital bed.
A protester in New York holds a photo of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody in Iran. Photography: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Raisi was repeatedly asked about Amini’s death during a Thursday morning briefing with reporters that Iranian officials initially tried to limit about Iran’s nuclear deal negotiations with the West.

Raisi repeated official claims that Amini died of a heart attack or stroke while in custody and said similar deaths in custody have occurred in the US and UK.

At least three women who attended the briefing were not wearing headscarves. A New York Times reporter was kicked out of the briefing for reporting that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was critically ill.

In a statement on Thursday, a New York Times spokesperson said: “Iranian state media has reported comments from an official that a New York Times correspondent must ‘admit an error’ in her coverage of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to attend a press conference. with President Raisi.

“We stand by our reporting by Farnaz Fassihi on the health of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which has been corroborated by key sources. Iranian officials were given the opportunity to comment on our story and chose not to respond,” the spokesperson added.

At least 31 people have died in six days of protests since Amini’s death. Iranian women have taken to the streets and the internet to burn their headscarves and cut their hair.

“A law that violates human dignity is not a normal law” said a protester.

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