About 40 minutes into the interview and as Raisi left late, an aide told Amanpour that the president had advised her to wear a headscarf. Amanpour said he “politely declined.”
Amanpour, who grew up in Iran’s capital Tehran and is a fluent Farsi speaker, said she wears a headscarf while reporting in Iran to comply with local laws and customs, “otherwise you couldn’t work as a journalist.” But he said he would not cover his head for an interview with an Iranian official outside a country where it was not required.
“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I’ve never been asked by an Iranian president — and I’ve interviewed every one of them since 1995 — inside or outside of Iran, never asked to wear a headscarf,” he told CNN on Thursday. said on the “New Day” program.
“I very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN and female 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 place in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and is mandatory for every woman in the country — including tourists, visiting political figures and journalists.
Amanpour said Raisi’s aide made it clear that the interview – which would be the Iranian president’s first on American soil – would not have taken place if he had not been wearing a headscarf. He referred to it as “a matter of respect” that it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar, and hinted at protests across the country citing the “situation in Iran”, he added.
The protests appear to be the largest-scale demonstrations against the Islamic Republic’s regime, which has become increasingly harsh since the election of Raisi’s hardline government last year. After eight years under Hassan Rouhani’s moderate administration, Iran has elected Raisi, an ultra-conservative judiciary chief whose views align with those of the country’s powerful cleric and supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Iran, the headscarf is a powerful symbol of the personal rules imposed by the country’s clerics, which control what people can wear, look and do. Over the past decade, protests have spread as many Iranians resent those restrictions.
Amini’s death sparked long-running outrage over restrictions on personal freedoms. Surveys and reports in recent years have shown that a growing number of Iranians do not believe the hijab, or headscarf, should be compulsory.
Iranian officials claimed Amini died after suffering a “heart attack” and falling into a coma, but his family said he did not have a pre-existing heart condition, according to Emtedad News, a reformist Iranian media outlet. Skepticism over the officials’ account of his death also sparked public outrage.
CCTV footage released by Iran’s state media showed Mahsa Amini collapsing at a “re-education” center where she was taken by morality police to receive “instruction” on her dress.
Amanpour had planned to probe Raisi about Amini’s death and protests, as well as the nuclear deal and Iran’s support for Russia in Ukraine, but said he had to step aside.