Sunday , 21 April 2024

Iranian Ambassador Sacked Over Interview with Woman Without Hijab in Azerbaijan

Iranwire – An interview of Abbas Mousavi, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic to Azerbaijan with a woman journalist without hijab in Baku, sparked controversy and ultimately led to his dismissal.

The media within Iran perceived the journalist’s attire as an affront to the values of the Islamic Republic and viewed the interaction as an instance of the Iranian ambassador being subjected to interrogation

The media inside Iran perceived the journalist’s attire as an affront to the values of the Islamic Republic and viewed the interaction as an instance of the Iranian ambassador “being subjected to interrogation.”

Why was this interview controversial?

Mousavi’s interview with a woman journalist without hijab, held within the Iranian embassy in Baku before Nowruz, provoked a strong backlash from the official media channels of the Islamic Republic.

According to state media, embassies are considered extensions of their respective countries’ territories, obliging embassy officials to uphold the customs of Iran.

The presence of a journalist without hijab, coupled with behavior deemed “disrespectful to Iran’s government, including the display of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s flag, went unaddressed by the Iranian ambassador,” further fueled the controversy.

What has been the reaction of the media in the Islamic Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan?

The Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Islami Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), criticized Mousavi, calling for his resignation.

They highlighted his failure to adequately respond to the journalist’s questions and accused him of “assuming a defensive stance, indicative of weakness.”

Bulletin News criticized embassy officials, labeling the interview as an “interrogation” and suggesting that some questions were intentionally aggressive, aiming to undermine Iran’s position.

Hamshahri Online urged Mousavi to resign, citing “the honor of Iran.”

Echoing a similar incident in March 2021, when Iran’s ambassador to London was dismissed due to the presence of women without mandatory hijabs at an embassy event, calls for Mousavi’s resignation surfaced.

While the removal of Mousavi has not garnered widespread attention in Azerbaijani media, some outlets, including Akhar News Agency, connected his dismissal to the contentious interview.

They assert that Mousavi’s punishment stems from his decision to conduct an interview with a female journalist without hijab, along with the presence of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s flag.

Additionally, some media sources such as Okho, Modern Az, and Global Info cited reports from the Islamic Republic of Iran suggesting that the ambassador’s departure happened five months earlier than officially announced, without specifying the reason for his dismissal.

What were the questions posed to Mousavi?

During the interview, the reporter inquired about several contentious issues.

In response to questions regarding Iran’s support for Armenia during the conflict with Azerbaijan, Mousavi emphasized Iran’s commitment to justice and condemned Armenia’s occupation and violence against Muslims and Azerbaijanis.

Mousavi underscored Iran’s historical support for Azerbaijan and reiterated the Iranian leadership’s condemnation of Armenia’s actions.

Regarding the attack on the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Tehran, Mousavi described the incident as unexpected and stated that the assailant, apprehended at the scene, confessed to personal motives.

He acknowledged the lack of police intervention, attributing it to diplomatic police protocol in Iran.

Mousavi emphasized heightened security measures for foreign embassies following the incident and noted that legal proceedings against the attacker had concluded with a retributive sentence.

On January 27, 2023, a man armed with a rifle resembling a Kalashnikov stormed into the premises of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran and opened fire, killing the security chief of the diplomatic mission and injuring two guards.

Two days later, Baku evacuated embassy staff and family members from Iran.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said the shooting resulted from Tehran’s failure to address security concerns.

Iranian authorities said the gunman, who has been arrested, appeared to have had personal motives.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for “a comprehensive investigation” of the incident, according to state media.

Before the interview’s publication, the Tasnim news agency had reported positively on Mousavi’s statements regarding the resumption of activities at the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Tehran.

However, after the publication of the interview and subsequent negative reactions from pro-Islamic Republic media outlets, calls for Mousavi’s resignation surfaced, leading to his dismissal.

The selection of ambassadors holds significance in diplomatic relations, as they represent their respective countries abroad.

While the change in ambassadors alone may not inherently strain bilateral relations, appointing an individual with confrontational views towards the host country could exacerbate tensions.

Mousavi’s removal or resignation is unlikely to significantly impact Iranian-Azerbaijani relations.

However, the future actions and statements of his successor will be closely watched.

In recent years, tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran have remained palpable.

Recent events, including Iranian media provocations and the cancellation of a planned meeting between President Ebrahim Raisi and his counterpart Ilham Aliyev, have exacerbated bilateral strains.

Additionally, incidents such as the attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran, accusations of espionage by Azerbaijan, and Iran’s alleged involvement in attacks on Azerbaijani officials, alongside broader geopolitical shifts, such as Azerbaijan’s warming relations with Israel, have further strained ties between the two nations.