CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour said that she declined to do an interview with Iran’s president in New York after one of his staffers informed her that she would be required to wear a headscarf.
“I politely declined,” Amanpour wrote on Twitter. “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 of Iran.”
Amanpour was scheduled to do the interview with Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
She said on CNN that the demand “was lobbed at us at the very last minute,” and that the Iranians decided to pull the interview when she refused.
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The interview comes amid protests in Iran in which women have taken off their headscarves and burned their hijabs in protest. The protests escalated following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after allegedly breaking hijab rules.
Amanpour said, “I think that he did not want to be seen with a female without a headscarf at this moment, either because it is a religious month or because people would say, ‘How come he is sitting down with a foreign journalist who is not wearing a headscarf yet inside Iran they are cracking down on young women who are not wearing their headscarves?’”
She said that the scheduled interview took weeks of planning and eight hours of setting up translation equipment, lights and cameras. Raisi, though, didn’t show at the scheduled time. Forty minutes later, she wrote on Twitter, an aide suggested that she wear a headscarf because of the holy months. The aide, she wrote, made it clear that the interview would not happen if she did not wear one.
Amanpour wrote that the aide “said it was ‘a matter of respect,’ and referred to ‘the situation in Iran’ — alluding to the protests sweeping the country.”
“Again, I said I couldn’t agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition,” she wrote. “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 Rossi.”
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