Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi skipped out on an interview with CNN host Christiane Amanpour after she refused to put on a headscarf for the duration of the interview.
The network reported Amanpour was set to interview Raisi on Wednesday as he visited the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Amanpour said Raisi ultimately backed out of the interview over refusing to accommodate his request that she wear a headscarf.
In a CNN panel discussion on Thursday, the network shared an image of Amanpour sitting across from an empty chair that was set out for her planned interview.
Amanpour, who spent her early years in Iran and is fluent in the native language Farsi, has worked as a correspondent in Iran for years.
During the CNN panel discussion, Amanpour explained that she does wear a headscarf when working in Iran to comply with the country’s laws. She said she obeys those laws in Iran “otherwise you couldn’t operate as a journalist.”
“Here in New York or anywhere else outside of Iran I have never been asked by any Iranian president — and I’ve interviewed every single one of them since 1995 either inside or outside of Iran — I’ve never been asked to wear a headscarf.”
Amanpour described the headscarf demand as a last minute condition for the interview with Raisi.
“After hours of getting this interview ready, after talks with the president’s officials, giving them sort of an idea of what we wanted to ask . . . at the very end they come up with ‘it’s a religious month of mourning and we need you to wear a headscarf,'” Amanpour said.
Amanpour said she “very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN and female journalists everywhere, because it is not a requirement and it was lobbed at us at the very last minute and very unfortunately they decided to pull — you know, pull the interview.”
The interview cancellation comes as protests are going on in the streets of Iran after a 22-year-old woman died after being arrested by Iran’s “morality police.” Amanpour said the woman, named Mahsa Amini, was caught up in a “drag net” operation searching for women not obeying the Iranian laws to dress modestly.
“If I could just guess, on how do I read it, I think that [Raisi] didn’t want to be seen with a female without a headscarf in this moment,” she said. “Either because he calls it a religious month or because people would say ‘how come he’s sitting down with a foreign journalist who’s not wearing a headscarf and yet inside Iran they’re cracking down on — on young women who are not wearing their headscarfs.