Tue, 26 Sep 2023

The leader's first-ever interview on US soil was canceled because of protocol disagreement

CNN's Christiane Amanpour has canceled an interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, claiming he demanded she wear a head covering in line with Islamic custom and that she "politely declined." The incident comes amid outrage and protests in Iran over a young woman's death in police custody after she was arrested over "inappropriate" headwear.

Amanpour took to Twitter on Thursday morning to discuss the ill-fated interview, which would have been Raisi's first on American soil. She said the president was initially late for the engagement, and that 40 minutes after it was set to begin, an aide approached her to suggest she wear a hijab during the sit-down "because it's the holy months of Muharram and Safar."

"I politely declined. We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves," Amanpour wrote, adding "I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran."

The CNN anchor went on to claim that the aide "made it clear that the interview would not happen if I did not wear a headscarf," saying it was a "matter of respect" given the current "situation in Iran" - apparently referring to recent protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained in Tehran for wearing an "improper" hijab before her mysterious death in custody. 

Amanpour said she had planned to ask Raisi about the woman's death and the heated demonstrations that followed, but insisted she "couldn't agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition" regarding the head covering, and therefore "walked away."

Raisi's office has yet to comment on the incident or confirm Amanpour's version of events.

Though the hijab - a headscarf frequently worn by Muslim women which comes in a variety of shapes and forms - has been compulsory in Iran since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Amanpour said she has interviewed every Iranian president since 1995 and has never been asked to wear a head covering outside of Iran itself. She has donned a hijab for some interviews overseas in the past, however, such as a sit-down with Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani in Kabul earlier this year, in which she wore a loose-fitting scarf.

READ MORE: US sanctions Iran's 'morality police'

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