Iranian President Scraps Interview After CNN Reporter Refuses To Wear Head Scarf
British-Iranian journalist Christiane Amanpour holds the laudatio for German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Fulbright Prize for International Understanding awarding ceremony in Berlin, Germany on January 28, 2019. (Photo by Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour announced on Thursday that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had scrapped a planned interview when she refused to put on a head scarf.

Amanpour and her team had already put in hours of preparation, securing translators and lighting for what would have been Raisi’s first interview on American soil, when an aide for the president made it clear that unless Amanpour covered her head, he was going to walk away.

The veteran journalist explained the context — and the sequence of events that led up to the interview’s cancelation — in a brief Twitter thread.

“Protests are sweeping Iran & women are burning their hijabs after the death last week of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the ‘morality police.’ Human rights groups say at least 8 have been killed. Last night, I planned to ask President Raisi about all this and much more,” Amanpour began.

She noted that the interview had been planned to coincide with his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly: “This was going to be President Raisi’s first ever interview on US soil, during his visit to NY 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.”

“40 minutes after the interview had been due to start, an aide came over. The president, he said, was suggesting I wear a headscarf, because it’s the holy months of Muharram and Safar,” Amanpour continued. “I politely declined. 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 Iran.”

That was when the tone of the conversation shifted, Amanpour noted, saying that the aide quickly made it clear that the “request” that she don a head scarf was really more of a “demand” — without which there would be no interview. “He said it was ‘a matter of respect,’ and referred to ‘the situation in Iran’ — alluding to the protests sweeping the country.”

“Again, I said that I couldn’t agree to this unprecedented and unexpected condition,” Amanpour continued. “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.”

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