40 minutes after the scheduled start of the interview and with Raisi arriving late, an aide told Amanpour that the president had suggested she wear a headscarf. Amanpour said she “slowly gave up.”
Amanpour, who grew up in Iran’s capital Tehran and is a fluent Farsi speaker, said he was reporting in Iran to comply with local laws and customs, “otherwise you wouldn’t be able to act as a journalist.” But he said he would not cover his head for an interview with an Iranian official outside a country where he is not required to.
“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I’ve never been asked by any Iranian president — and I’ve interviewed every one of them since 1995 — inside or outside of Iran, I’ve never been asked to wear a headscarf,” she said Thursday on CNN’s ” in the New Day” program.
“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 cover their heads and wear loose clothing in public. The rule has been in force in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and is mandatory for all women in the country, including tourists, visiting politicians and journalists.
Amanpour said Raisi’s aide made it clear that the interview — which would be the first by an Iranian president on American soil — would not take place unless she wore a headscarf. He referred to it as “a matter of respect”, considering the holy months of Muharram and Safar, and referred to the “situation in Iran”, referring to the protests that are sweeping the country, he added.
The demonstrations appear to be the biggest show of defiance against the rule of the Islamic Republic, which has become more strident since the election of Raisi’s hardline government last year. After eight years of moderate Hassan Rouhani’s administration, Iran elected Raisi, a leader of the ultraconservative judiciary whose views align with the thinking of the country’s powerful cleric and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Iran, the headscarf is a powerful symbol of the personal rules set by the country’s clerical leaders that govern what people can wear, see and do. In the past decade, protests have erupted, as many Iranians have grown angry at the restrictions.
Amini’s death has sparked long-standing anger over restrictions on personal freedoms. Polls and reports in recent years have shown that a growing number of Iranians do not believe that the hijab, or headscarf, should be compulsory.
Iranian officials said Amini died after suffering a “heart attack” and falling into a coma, but his family said he had no prior heart disease, according to Emtedad news, Iran’s pro-reform media. Officials’ skepticism about his death has also sparked a public outcry.
CCTV footage released by Iranian state media showed Mahsa Amini being dropped off at a “re-education” center where she was taken by morality police to receive “orientation” on her dress code.
Amanpour had planned to investigate Raisi on Amini’s death and the protests, as well as the nuclear deal and Iran’s aid to Russia in Ukraine, but he said he had to leave.