Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi withdraws from CNN interview after anchor declines headscarf demand

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi withdrew from an interview with veteran CNN journalist Christian Amanpour in New York on Sept. 21 after she declined his demand that she wear a headscarf.

Amanpour said on Twitter that 40 minutes after the interview had been due to start and with Raisi running late, an aide told her that the Iranian leader had suggested she wear a headscarf.

Amanpour, who grew up in Tehran and is a fluent Farsi speaker, said she “politely declined,” pointing out that there was no law or tradition regarding headscarves in New York.

Amanpour also pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required her to wear a headscarf when she interviewed them outside of Iran.

“I very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN, and female journalists everywhere because it is not a requirement,” Amanpour said on CNN’s “New Day” program on Sept. 22.

According to Amanpour, Raisi said it was “a matter of respect” because it was the holy months of Muharram and Safar and referred to “the situation in Iran,” where violent unrest erupted after a woman detained for allegedly breaking headscarf rules died in police custody.

However, Amanpour still declined to what she described as an “unprecedented and unexpected condition,” leading to the cancellation of the interview, which would have been Raisi’s first on American soil.

“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,” Amanpour said.

Mahsa Amini, 22, died last week after Iran’s morality police arrested her on an accusation of violating an Iranian law that required women to wear a head covering, prompting deadly anti-government protests.

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