Political anger with Iran over the death of Masha Amini has raised its ugly head once more in the public sphere. This time, it was when CNN’s Christiane Amanpour refused to wear a hijab for an interview with Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi.
The meeting, scheduled to take place in New York this Wednesday, September 21st at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, was canceled after she declined to wear the hijab.
The demand, combined with her categorical refusal to wear the hijab for Raisi, has become a point of political contention for both parties due to recent mass protests in Iran over the death of Masha Amini, a twenty-two year old Kurdish woman from the northwestern city of Saqez.
Amini, also known as Jina Amini or Zhina Amini, perished on September 16th after her arrest by Iranian Morality Police, who accused her of violating the laws requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab and their body with loose clothing.
According to Iranian authorities, she allegedly collapsed at an Iranian detention center for “re-education” and died after three days in a coma after suffering a brain stroke or heart attack. However, subsequent reports claim the victim suffered from police abuse—rather than a heart attack or stroke—and died after a violent beating.
Raisi has attempted to reassure the international community that he would not allow the “trampling of human rights” in Iran. Yet nothing the Iranian government has done nothing to stop the violence against protesters. The Iranian President is a hardline leader, however, meaning his words have had little impact against widening international condemnation.
Iranian women and Amanpour up in arms over hijab rules
As the Chief International Anchor for CNN, Amanpour is well-versed in diplomacy when it comes to interviewing international political figures. For that reason, Raisi’s sudden request after a forty minute delay came as a surprise to Amanpour. Since 1995, she had interviewed many of his predecessors without having had to wear a headscarf.
“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I have never been asked by any Iranian president,” she said on CNN’s New Day show on Thursday. “And I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995… either inside or outside of Iran, never been asked to wear a head scarf.” That had nothing to do with her decision not to wear one, however. The main reason was because the interview was due to take place in the United States.
“I politely declined,” she explained a day after the event on Twitter. “We are in New York where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves.”
Amanpour was born in the United Kingdom to an Iranian father and grew up in Tehran. Hence, she is not only fluent in Fahrsi but also very knowledgeable about the country’s history, traditions, and customs. There have been severe restrictions in Iran on what women can wear or do since 1979.
As a war journalist, Amanpour has faced the horrors inflicted upon women around the world as well as in her homeland. “I very politely declined on behalf of myself and CNN and female journalists everywhere because it is not a requirement.”
United we stand, divided we fall
The conflict in Iran over Amini’s death has since gone viral. There has been a severe crackdown on the internet and use of social media. Nevertheless, protestors have shared hundreds of photos and videos of Iranians taking to the streets.
Iranian women are finally daring once again to raise their common voice in anger. The government has shut down Instagram and What’s App, for example, in an attempt to stop escalation of the protests.
Nevertheless, haunting images of Iranian women burning their headscarves in protest have still surfaced and are catching on like wildfire, creating waves of fury in the West, as well. This is especially true in light of human rights groups’ fears concerning the deaths of at least thirty-six others.
Equally worrying are daily reports of continuing police brutality against protesters. Previously, in Iran, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps arrested Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani and Elham Choubdar, two LGBT activists later sentenced to death, for breaking the rule against same-sexual conduct.
Amanpour has witnessed such events many times before as a wartime journalist and Chief International Anchor for CNN. It is those experiences that make her stance against Raisi a bold one. As always, Amanpour subtly maintained her sense of objectivity as a journalist whilst making her opinion as a woman quite clear.
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