Christiane Amanpour says she wouldn’t cover her head, so Iran’s president walked on her

Christiane Amanpour was all set to interview the Iranian president in New York on Wednesday when Iranian officials came in with a last-minute condition: the CNN host should wear a head covering, in deference to Iranian custom and an Islamic religious ritual.

Amanpour said she declined. At the time, aides to President Ebrahim Raisi canceled the interview, triggering an incident that underscored tensions over women’s rights in Iran.

“I refused to fold or collapse to turn on [the Iranians] to impose the laws of their country on our country,” Amanpour told The Washington Post on Thursday. She added: “I stood up for myself as a journalist.”

Iranian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident comes as protests are raging across Iran against Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died last week while in custody. Amini was arrested in Tehran by the Iranian ‘morality police’ for her public clothes. Her family has disputed Iranian officials’ claims that she died of heart failure.

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In protest, protesters have burned hijabs and other similar coverings, and women have publicly cut their hair in defiance of the country’s leadership. According to the human rights group Amnesty International, security forces trying to crush the protests have killed at least eight people.

In interviews and a Twitter thread, Amanpour said she had already sat down to interview Raisi at the United Nations on Wednesday — the president was in town for a UN General Assembly meeting — when officials insisted she cover her hair. They mentioned the arrival of Muharram, a common mourning period observed mainly by Shia Muslims.

But Amanpour suggested Raisi didn’t want to be interviewed by an uncovered woman at a time when headgear protests rage in Iran. She said she had told Iranian officials in advance that she planned to ask about the protests.

It is not the first time a journalist has struggled with clothing decisions when covering an Islamic country where women have to hide, such as Iran. sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) erroneously reprimanded CNN’s Clarissa Ward for wearing a “mandatory burqa” when she reported from Kabul last year. (Ward actually wore a black headgear.)

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And Lesley Stahl wore a gray headgear for her ’60 Minutes’ interview with Raisi at the presidential compound in Tehran last week, before the Amini protests began. In her report, which aired Sunday, Stahl said Iranian officials told her how to dress, not to sit before he did, and not to interrupt.

But Amanpour noticed an important difference: Stahl was visiting Iran and dressed according to local custom. Amanpour said she does that herself when she’s in the country, but never outside of it.

“I wasn’t pulling a stunt,” she told The Post. “It was a decision I had to make on the spot.”

In a statement, CNN said it “fully supported Christiane and her team’s decision to politely decline the interview with President Raisi.”

Amanpour called the Iranians’ actions regarding the canceled interview “deeply disturbing” in an interview on CNN Thursday morning.

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She also posted a picture of himself on Twitter, showed her in a white suit and sitting opposite an empty chair, her hair uncovered. “And so we walked away.” she wrote. “The interview did not go through. As the protests in Iran continue and people are being killed, it would have been an important moment to speak with President Raisi.”

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