CNN’s Christiane Amanpour refuses to wear headscarves, demanded by Iranian president

When Iran erupted into violence over the death of a young woman in “morality police” custody, Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, had her own altercation over a headscarf with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi suddenly withdrew from a long-scheduled interview in New York after Amanpour turned down his last-minute demand to wear a headscarf. “It was very disturbing,” Amanpour said on CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday.

The unusual confrontation took place as protesters battled police in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. She was arrested last week by Iran’s “morality” police because her headscarf was reportedly too loose to comply with the country’s strictly enforced Islamic dress restrictions for women.

Police claimed she died of heart failure, but her family said she was in perfect health with no history of heart problems.

Amanpour said tensions over such repression in Iran have grown, but it has become increasingly unstable since the election of the current “tough” government, including Raisi. The treatment of women is “always the barometer” of Iranian government policy, Amanpour noted.

Amanpour, who grew up in Tehran, said she has always worn a headscarf in Iran because it is the custom, “otherwise you just wouldn’t be able to operate as a journalist there,” she added.

“Here in New York, or anywhere outside of Iran, I’ve never been asked by an Iranian president — and I’ve interviewed all of them since 1995 — inside or outside Iran, never asked to wear a headscarf,” Amanpour said.

But Raisi was already 40 minutes late for the interview at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday night when his aide suddenly told Amanpour that the president “needs” her to wear a headscarf.

Raisi’s assistant said it was a “matter of respect‘, referred to the current holy month and to ‘the situation’ in Iran, Amanpour said.

It would have been Raisi’s first interview on American soil.

“I’ve very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN, and female journalists everywhere, because it’s not a requirement, and it was attacked us at the very last minute,” Amanpour said.

“I don’t think he wanted to be seen with a woman without a headscarf at this point,” she added.

At least nine people were killed Friday in clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters furious over Amini’s death, according to The Associated Press.

The extent of the ongoing unrest, the worst in years, remains unclear, but protests have erupted in at least a dozen cities over the repression and mounting economic and social crises, the AP noted.

Many Iranians, especially young people, regard Amini’s death as part of the Islamic Republic’s overly heavy-handed policing of dissent and the increasingly violent treatment of young women by the morality police.

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