CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says she pulled out of an interview with Iran’s president after he demanded she wear a headscarf

CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour said Thursday that she backed an interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi after one of his aides said it wouldn’t happen if she didn’t wear a headscarf.

In a Twitter thread, Amanpour recounted how her scheduled interview with Raisi on Wednesday night in New York fell apart, describing the aide’s request as an “unprecedented and unexpected circumstance”.

Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, said she planned to ask Raisi about the protests sweeping across Iran after Masha Amini, a 22-year-old woman held by the country’s morality police for her She allegedly broke her strictly enforced dress code, died in custody. last week.

Raisi was in New York for the UN General Assembly.

People protest the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police in central Tehran, Iran, on September 21, 2022. (AP)

Iranian authorities have said Amini died last Friday after falling ill and slipping into a coma while waiting with other women held by the morality police. Authorities acknowledged that arrests were made at subsequent protests, but denied Amini suffered ill-treatment and said they were investigating her death.

Amini’s family denied that she had health problems.

In recent days, Iranian security forces have clashed with anti-government protesters furious over Amini’s death, with some women lighting their cages against the morality police and the country’s wider atmosphere of social repression. The deadly commotion has been recorded on social media.

Amanpour said she and her CNN staff planned the interview over a period of weeks and spent eight hours Wednesday setting up translation equipment, lights and cameras.

“[W]You were ready,” she wrote in part. “But there is no sign of President Raisi.”

Forty minutes after the interview was scheduled to begin, an aide to Iran’s president came over and said the president “suggested” that Amanpour wear a headscarf in recognition of the holy months of Muharram and Safar, wrote she (Amanpour did not identify the assistant.)

“I politely declined,” Amanpour wrote. “We’re in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves. I pointed out that no previous Iranian president needed to be interviewed when I interviewed them outside of Iran.”

“The assistant made it clear that the interview would not take place if I did not wear a scarf,” she wrote. “He said it was ‘a matter of respect’ and referred to the ‘situation in Iran’ – referring to the protests sweeping the country.”

Amanpour wrote that she told the aide that she could not agree to what she described as an “unprecedented and unexpected condition” in the interview.

“And so we walked away. The interview did not happen,” Amanpour wrote in the final post of the Twitter thread. “As protests continue in Iran and people are being killed, it was a great time to speak with President Raisi.”

Amanpour’s last tweet in the thread was accompanied by a photo of her facing an empty chair.

NBC News could not immediately reach Raisi for comment because the president’s office is closed until Saturday.

In a statement, a spokesperson told CNN: “We fully support Christiane and her team’s decision to politely decline the interview with President Raisi.”

In an address to world leaders at the United Nations on Wednesday, Raisi did not address the growing unrest in his country, instead using his time to attack the West and what he described as “standards some governments are doubling down on human rights”.

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