Iran’s President Raisi accuses Western powers of orchestrating protests against head scarf mandate

President Ebrahim Raisi

25th September 2023 – (Tehran) President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran has claimed that Western powers are behind the recent protests in the country against mandatory head scarfs for women, dismissing evidence to the contrary. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Raisi insisted that the unrest was instigated by external agitators.

Raisi stated, “The people of Iran did not support in any way those that rioted in the streets of Iran.” He argued that Iranians are enlightened and spiritual people who understand that Western countries, including the United States and three European nations (likely Britain, France, and Germany), do not genuinely care about their rights or the issue of hijab. According to Raisi, Iran has a long-standing tradition of respecting women, spanning centuries.

The discussion between Zakaria and Raisi also touched upon the 2015 nuclear pact and the ongoing disputes over uranium enrichment and Iran’s potential development of nuclear weapons. Raisi expressed disdain for the Western powers involved in the agreement, criticizing their approach and intentions.

The protests against the Islamic Republic’s mandates, particularly regarding the hijab, have intensified following the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old, died three days after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran. The demonstrations have led to numerous arrests, including that of Amjad Amini, Mahsa’s father.

In response to the protests, Iran’s parliament has proposed a bill to impose stricter penalties for violations of the hijab law. President Raisi attributed the unrest not only to Western governments but also to Western media, accusing certain networks headquartered in the three European countries and the United States of promoting tactics of terror.

Zakaria, who shared his personal experience of growing up as a Muslim in India, highlighted the uncommon rigidity of Iran’s laws even within the Muslim world. He pointed out that many Islamic countries with devout governments do not enforce such strict dress codes.

Unfazed by the criticism, Raisi defended the enforcement of Islamic law, stating that when an issue becomes part of the law, everyone must adhere to it. As the leader of a theocratic government that has rigorously enforced its interpretation of Islamic law since the 1970s, Raisi remained steadfast in his stance.

Raisi also took repeated shots at Israel, referring to it primarily as “the Zionist regime,” as Iran does not recognize Israel’s existence. He dismissed efforts by the United States to normalize relations between Israel and its neighbours, asserting that such attempts would fail, just like previous endeavours.