Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan dismissed after interview with unveiled reporter

Abbas Mousavi criticised for speaking with a woman not wearing the hijab

Iran's envoy to Azerbaijan, Abbas Mousavi, with Baku TV journalist Sevinc Gulmammadova. Baku TV
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Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan has reportedly been dismissed from his role after an interview with a female reporter who appeared without her hijab.

Abbas Mousavi, who previously served as spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, will be replaced by a new envoy to Baku, state outlet IRNA and Tasnim News, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported at the weekend.

It comes after Tasnim posted a scathing critique of Mr Mousavi following an interview with an Azeri journalist for Baku TV, criticising the envoy for speaking with a woman not wearing the hijab.

The interview was held in Iran's embassy in Azerbaijan, according to Tasnim, which criticised the Baku TV reporter for her clothing and not wearing the hijab, which, although mandatory in Iran, is not required in public in Azerbaijan.

While state outlets did not confirm his replacement was due to the interview, official media has called for his resignation in the two weeks since the interview was aired.

“Unfortunately, the Iranian ambassador did not react to this insult,” Tasnim said, adding he did not give a “dignified response” to the reporter's placement of an Azeri flag on the table between them.

“A reporter of a country is not considered an official official of that country … carrying out such acts as a journalist is a kind of insult to the Iranian official in that country,” it claimed.

“Mr Mousavi … showed in his interview that he may not be able to properly defend the positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we hope will give his place to another person who is free from these mistakes,” it added.

Journalist Sevinc Gulmammadova acknowledged the backlash the interview created, saying it has “caused a lot of noise” online.

The National has reached out to Ms Gulmammadova for comment.

Iran has forced women to adhere to a strict dress code in public since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and enforces an array of harsh laws on women through the so-called morality police.

Tehran has only tightened restrictions on women since the widespread Mahsa Amini protests, following the death of the young Kurdish woman in morality police custody.

It passed a law punishing women who do not wear the hijab with up to 10 years in prison, with the UN saying it may amount to gender apartheid.

In October, a teenager died after being beaten by morality police for not wearing a hijab on Tehran's metro.

Officials also try to impose the same dress code when meeting with women abroad.

In September, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi cancelled an interview with CNN after journalist Christiane Amanpour refused to wear the hijab.

Female athletes representing Iran abroad have also been reprimanded and threatened with jail for competing without the hijab.

In 2022, climber Elnaz Rekabi was forced to apologise for competing without a headscarf in South Korea, the BBC reported, and was later reported missing before returning to Iran, where she received public approval for her decision.

Updated: March 31, 2024, 9:56 AM