Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi failed to show up to his first ever interview on U.S. soil after CNN’s Christiane Amanpour “politely declined” his demand to wear a head scarf, the reporter said in a Twitter thread Thursday.
“After weeks of planning and eight hours of setting up translation equipment, lights and cameras, we were ready. But no sign of President Raisi,” Amanpour explained. “40 minutes after the interview had been due to start, an aide came over. The president, he said, was suggesting I wear a head scarf, because it’s the holy months of Muharram and Safar.”
While Amanpour has worn head scarves in the past for interviews in other countries, like Iran or Afghanistan, she noted that she would not wear one in a country where it is not required. CBS News correspondent Lesley Stahl interviewed Raisi last week for “60 Minutes,” prior to the in-custody death and ensuing protests. The interview took place in Iran’s capital of Tehran, and Stahl wore a head covering.
“We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding head scarves,” the journalist wrote. “I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran.”
According to Amanpour, the aide who informed her of Raisi’s demand “alluded to the protests sweeping” Iran currently after a woman — who was detained by morality police for allegedly not fully covering her hair with her hijab — died in police custody.
“And so we walked away,” Amanpour tweeted. “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.”
Under Iran law, women have to abide by a particular dress code, which is based on the country’s interpretation of Sharia law. This includes donning a hijab to cover their hair, as well as wearing loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures, the BBC reports.
Last week, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran from Kurdistan when she was arrested by the morality police for not complying with the head covering rule. She died while in custody.
Police have said Amini died due to health conditions, saying she suffered a heart attack. Amini’s family denied that she had any health issues and critics and eyewitnesses have claimed that the woman was beaten in a police van before slipping into a coma.
Since the incident, protests have erupted all over Iran in response to Amini’s death. Many women are publicly burning their hijabs and cutting their hair off in solidarity with Amini. At least 17 have been killed in the protests, and internet access has been cut in several parts of the country.