Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi canceled a New York interview with CNN broadcaster Christiane Amanpour at the last minute after she refused to wear a headscarf, Amanpour said Thursday, as women across Iran protest the country’s laws requiring women to wear hijab in public after a young woman died after being detained by Iran’s morality police.
Nearly an hour after the interview was slated to begin Raisi had still not arrived, Amanpour said one of the president’s aides came forward suggested Amanpour put on a headscarf for the on-camera interview because of Muharram and Safar, two holy months in Islam.
Amanpour said she “politely declined,” noting that previous Iranian presidents never required her to don a headscarf during interviews that took place outside Iran.
The aide gave Amanpour an ultimatum, saying it was “a matter of respect” and referred to “the situation in Iran,” Amanpour said, alluding to the protests in the country.
Women have been at the vanguard of the protests sweeping Iran over the past week after Masha Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman living in Iran, died in custody after she was detained for not following the country’s strict rules for women’s attire in public (Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, women have been required to don a headscarf over their hair and wear loose clothing while in public). Amini reportedly fell into a coma at a detention center and died after three days. Police said she had a sudden heart attack, but Amini’s family said she was healthy and sustained bruises on her legs while in custody, accusing police of mistreating her, which authorities denied. Protests erupted in Iran Saturday, on the day of Amini’s funeral, largely in the northwest areas of the country in Kurdish-populated cities, and spread to the rest of the country throughout the week. Women have been burning their headscarves in mass bonfires in protest. Raisi has called for a full investigation into Amini’s death.