Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi canceled a long-awaited meeting with UN Foreign Affairs Minister Christiane Amanpour during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday after she rejected a last-minute request to wear a head scarf.
A source told Amanpour that the president had advised her to wear a head scarf due to Raisi's tardiness and the interview being 40 minutes late. She "politely declined."
Amanpour, who grew up in Tehran and speaks fluent Farsi, said she wears a head scarf while reporting in Iran to observe local laws and customs, because "you couldn't operate as a journalist otherwise." She stated, however, that she would not cover her head if she were to interview an Iranian official outside of Iran, where it is not required.
On CNN's "New Day" program Thursday, she said she has never been asked by any Iranian president — and I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995.
Because it isn't a requirement, I graciously declined on behalf of myself and female journalists across the world.”
All women in Iran are required to wear a head covering and loose-fitting clothing in public. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the law has been enforced in Iran, including tourists, visiting politicians, and journalists.
Raisi's assistant said the interview, which would have been the Iranian president's first on American soil, would not take place unless she wore a head scarf. Given that it is the holy months of Muharram and Safar, he invoked "the situation in Iran," referring to the ongoing protests in the country.
Protests erupted across Iran last week in response to the death in detention of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been detained by Iran's morality police on suspicion of violating the law on head coverings.
Thousands of people have flocked to the streets in protest of the legislation, some women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, according to witnesses and photographs posted on social media. At least eight people have been killed in the demonstrations, which have been faced with harsh punishment by police.
Iran chose Raisi, an ultra-conservative judiciary head whose views are consistent with those of the country's powerful clergy and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The head scarf is a powerful representation of Iran's individual standards, set by the country's clergymen, that govern what citizens can wear, watch, and do. Protests have erupted over the last decade as many Iranians have grown tired of these restrictions.
The killing of Amini has sparked a long-running outburst of discontent over personal freedoms. According to recent surveys and studies, a growing majority of Iranians believe the hijab, or head scarf, should not be enforced.
Iranian officials claim that Amini died of a "heart attack" and was put into a coma, while her family claims she had no pre-existing heart disease. Public outrage has also fueled widespread optimism.
Mahsa Amini was found dead in a "re-education" center where she was taken by morality officers for "advice" on her clothes, according to CCTV footage posted by Iran's official television.
Amanpour had planned to interview Raisi on Amini's death and protests, as well as the nuclear deal and Iran's support for Russia in Ukraine, but had to back out.
“It would have been an appropriate time to meet with President Raisi,” said the Iranian protesters who are continuing and people being killed.