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Journalists and the hijab debate

Journalists and the hijab debate
Journalists and the hijab debate 04:54

This week for 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl met Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist living in Brooklyn who has been targeted by the Iranian regime for encouraging women in Iran to stop wearing headscarves. Protests over hijab laws took hold in Iran last year after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in the custody of Iran's morality police. Amini had been arrested on the charge of wearing a hijab improperly.

In Brooklyn, Alinejad's activism has made her a target of the Iranian regime. As Stahl was interviewing her about the threat against her life, Alinejad brought up another subject: Stahl's interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi last year, during which Stahl covered her own head. 

Masih Alinejad: I was furious when I saw your interview because I was like, "Why?" 

Lesley Stahl: When you saw me interviewing Raisi and I was wearing the headscarf, the veil, you were upset. 

Masih Alinejad: Please don't get mad at me. 

Lesley Stahl: I'm not mad at you, I'm not mad at you.

Masih Alinejad: I was angry. 

Lesley Stahl: But I think you should tell us. You were angry at me.

Masih Alinejad: Oh, thank you so much, actually, for giving me the opportunity to say that. Because a lot of journalists and female politicians, they don't even get it, why I was upset, why I was angry. And can I say something? You're the only one actually asking me this question. Because the rest, they don't even want to hear people like me that why, why I was angry. Because look, I lost everything in my life. 

They are dictators. You have to give the platform to women in Iran. You have to hear them. By giving platform to Ebrahim Raisi and wearing hijab, you're legitimizing one of the most barbaric laws, compulsory veiling. One of the clerics in Iran told me on air, " Who are you? How dare you to say no to compulsory hijab?" So clearly when you are wearing hijab in the name of respecting the law of the land, they are using this to put more pressure on us. 

Lesley Stahl: But you appreciate, don't you, that if I had said, "I'm not going to wear the hijab, even here in Iran," that they would've said, "Well, you don't get your interview then."

Masih Alinejad: And then you could--

Lesley Stahl: It puts us in this difficult position. And, of course, we did debate it. It's not as if it wasn't an issue that we understand.

Masih Alinejad: Exactly. No, actually you did a great job by challenging him. But this is what dictators are really good at, putting women against women, by forcing you to wear hijab and telling me that, "Look, even I forced this powerful woman to wear a hijab."

Lesley Stahl: I did not feel, in my heart and in my mind, that what I was doing was an act against women.

"You have to decide whether you yourself are an activist and you want to make a statement, or you're a journalist and you want to do the interview," Stahl told 60 Minutes Overtime. "And I definitely fall in the second category. I think there's so much value in going to a place, interviewing officials, that if the price for that is to put that headscarf on—even though I'm opposed to it—I would still want to get the interview, bring it back and put it on 60 Minutes, which is what we did."

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger. 

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