About 40 minutes after the interview was scheduled to start and Raisi was late, an aide told Amanpour that the president had suggested he wear a headscarf. Amanpour said she “politely declined”.
Amanpour, who grew up in Iran’s capital Tehran and is fluent in Farsi, said she wears a head scarf when reporting in Iran to comply with local laws and customs, “otherwise you wouldn’t be able to work as a journalist”. But she said she would not cover her head to conduct an interview with an Iranian official outside a country where it is not mandatory.
“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, no Iranian president has ever asked me – and I’ve interviewed every single one of them since 1995 – whether inside or outside of Iran, I’ve never been asked to wear a headscarf,” she said on CNN’s “New Day” program on Thursday.
“I very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN, and women journalists everywhere because it’s not a requirement.”
Iranian law requires all women to wear a head covering and loose clothing in public. The rule has been enforced in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it is compulsory for all women in the country, including tourists, visiting politicians and journalists.
Amanpour said Raisi’s assistant made it clear that the interview – which would have been the Iranian president’s first on American soil – would not take place if she was not wearing a headscarf. He referred to it as “a matter of respect”, given that it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar, and referred to “the situation in Iran”, alluding to the protests sweeping the country, said she added.
The protests appear to be large-scale demonstrations of defiance against the Islamic Republic regime, which has grown tougher since the election of Raisi’s hardline government last year. After eight years of moderate Hassan Rohani’s administration, Iran has elected Raisi, an ultra-conservative judicial leader whose views are in line with the thinking of the country’s powerful clergy and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Iran, the headscarf is a powerful symbol of a set of personal rules imposed by the country’s religious leaders, which govern what people can wear, look and do. Over the past decade, protests have erupted as many Iranians have resented these limitations.
Amini’s death fueled a long-simmering wave of anger against restrictions on individual freedoms. Surveys and reports in recent years have shown that a growing number of Iranians do not believe the hijab, or headscarf, should be compulsory.
Iranian officials have claimed that Amini died after suffering a “heart attack” and falling into a coma, but her family said she had no pre-existing heart condition, according to Emtedad News, a pro-Iranian media outlet. reform. Skepticism over the authorities’ account of his death has also fueled public outcry.
CCTV footage released by Iranian state media showed Mahsa Amini collapsing in a “re-education” center where she was taken by vice squad to receive “counseling” on how to dress.
Amanpour had planned to investigate Raisi over Amini’s death and the protests, as well as the nuclear deal and Iran’s support for Russia in Ukraine, but said she had to go.