Iranian President Cancelled Interview, According To Amanpour, Because She Wouldn’t Cover Her Head

Amanpour says Iran's president canceled interview when she wouldn't cover head
Amanpour says Iran's president canceled interview when she wouldn't cover head

On Wednesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi canceled a long-planned interview with chief foreign anchor Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations General Assembly in New York after she refused a last-minute request to wear a head scarf.

With Raisi running late and the interview starting 40 minutes late, an aide told Amanpour that the president had advised her to wear a head scarf. According to Amanpour, she “politely declined.”

Amanpour, who grew up in Tehran and speaks fluent Farsi, said she wears a head scarf while reporting in Iran to comply with local rules and customs, because “you couldn’t operate as a journalist otherwise.” She did, however, state that she would not cover her head if she were to conduct an interview with an Iranian official outside of Iran, where it is not compulsory.

“I have never been asked by any Iranian president – and I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995 – either inside or outside of Iran, never been requested to wear a head scarf,” she claimed on CNN’s “New Day” show Thursday.

Because it is not a requirement, I graciously declined on behalf of myself, and female journalists globally.”

In public, all women in Iran are required to wear a head covering and loose-fitting attire. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the regulation has been enforced in Iran, and it is mandatory for all women in the nation, including tourists, visiting political figures, and journalists.

According to Amanpour, Raisi’s aide made it plain that the interview, which would have been the Iranian president’s first on American territory, would not take place unless she wore a head scarf. Given that it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar, he referred to “the situation in Iran,” alluding to the protests sweeping the country, she noted.

Protests erupted across Iran last week in response to the death in detention of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been seized by Iran’s morality police on suspicion of breaching the law on head coverings.

Thousands of people have flocked to the streets in protest of the law, with some women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs. According to witnesses and images published on social media, at least eight people have been killed in the rallies, which have been met with a harsh crackdown by police.

The protests look to be the most large-scale manifestations of resistance against the Islamic Republic’s rule, which has become more rigorous since Raisi’s hard-line cabinet was elected last year. After eight years of moderate government under Hassan Rouhani, Iran chose Raisi, an ultra-conservative judiciary chief whose views are consistent with those of the country’s powerful clergy and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The head scarf is a powerful symbol in Iran of a system of personal norms imposed by the country’s clerics that govern what citizens can wear, watch, and do. Protests have erupted over the last decade as many Iranians have grown tired of the restrictions.

Amini’s death has sparked a long-simmering outburst of rage against constraints on personal freedoms. According to recent surveys and studies, a rising majority of Iranians believe the hijab, or head scarf, should not be enforced.

According to Emtedad news, an Iranian pro-reform media outlet, Iranian officials claim Amini died after suffering a “heart attack” and going into a coma, while her family claims she had no pre-existing heart disease. Skepticism over the officials’ version of her death has also fueled popular outrage.

According to CCTV footage posted by Iran’s official television, Mahsa Amini collapsed in a “re-education” center where she was taken by morality police to receive “advice” on her attire.

Amanpour had planned to question Raisi about Amini’s death and protests, as well as the nuclear deal and Iran’s backing for Russia in Ukraine, but had to back out.

“With the protests in Iran continuing and people being killed, it would have been an important time to speak with President Raisi.”

Since 2014, Eliza Grace has worked as a reporter covering movies and other forms of media. She is particularly well-known for the humorous way in which she analyses film. On a regular basis, she contributes articles to The Current that are movie reviews as well as articles about the newest movies, video games, and entertainment news. Words from Eliza Grace: "There's a standard formula for success in the entertainment medium and that's: Beat it to death if it succeeds."