Iran’s president backs out of Christiane Amanpour interview after she refuses to wear headscarf

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Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, said Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi refused to sit for an interview in New York after she declined to wear a headscarf.  

Amanpour on Twitter said she was planning to ask Raisi about a slate of issues, including protests and international criticism over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained after violating the country’s dress code.  

Amini was arrested earlier this month by Iran’s “morality police” for not properly covering her hair with a headscarf, or hijab. She collapsed at a detention center, entered a coma and died days later, according to a statement from acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif. 

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated since her death, including in her home city of Saqez. The U.S. government on Thursday imposed sanctions on the country’s morality police and other officials.

At least nine protesters have been killed in clashes with Iranian security officials.    

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“This was going to be President Raisi’s first ever interview on US soil, during his visit to NY for UNGA. After weeks of planning and eight hours of setting up translation equipment, lights and cameras, we were ready. But no sign of President Raisi,” Amanpour tweeted on Thursday, referencing the United Nations General Assembly.  

She said 40 minutes after the interview was supposed to begin, an aide for the Iranian president said the leader was suggesting she wear a headscarf “because it’s the holy months of Muharram and Safar.”  

“I politely declined. We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves. I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran,” Amanpour tweeted, adding that the aide, who she did not identify, then told her the interview would not go forward if she did not wear a headscarf.  

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a statement on Thursday said the U.S. is calling on the Iranian government “to end its violence against women and its ongoing violent crackdown on free expression and assembly.” 

“Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in Morality Police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people,” Yellen said.