BBC criticised for ‘absurd’ article on ‘Butcher of Tehran’ Raisi

Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi who died in a helicopter crash - Mert Gokhan Koc/Dia Images via AP
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The BBC is facing criticism for saying Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s hardline president who died in a helicopter crash, left a “mixed legacy”.

An article published by the broadcaster described the former leader, who was confirmed dead on Monday, as a figure “loved by hardliners of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

“President Ebrahim Raisi’s mixed legacy in Iran,” the BBC’s World Service’s social media post promoting the article read.

Soldiers carry the body of Raisi at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran
Soldiers carry the body of Raisi at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran - Anadolu via Getty

Raisi earned a fearsome reputation as the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role on the so-called “death committee”, which ordered the execution of thousands of political opponents of the Islamic Republic’s regime, in the 1980s.

He was subsequently elected president in 2021 in a vote considered by many as rigged because moderates and reformists had been barred from taking part.

The BBC described him as “the president of the unprivileged and poor”, citing depictions by Iranian state media.

Security minister Tom Tugendhat said the piece was “absurd”.

The senior Conservative MP had earlier criticised Charles Michel, the European Council’s president, for offering Iran the EU’s “sincere condolences”.

”I will not mourn him [Raisi],” Mr Tugendhat wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Iranian citizens march from Shohada Square to Mosalla Square during the funeral ceremony
Iranian citizens march from Shohada Square to Mosalla Square during the funeral ceremony - Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu via Getty

Gabriel Noronha, the US state department’s former Iran adviser, said the BBC should receive the “worst obituary award for noting Raisi’s leadership to ‘reform in processing a backlog of court cases’”.

“Since 2021, when Raisi took office, the regime executed 1,844 Iranians, including huge numbers of dissidents and religious minorities, most in sham trials,” he added.

The satirical Sunday Sport newspaper joked that the BBC would likely describe Adolf Hitler as an “often-controversial German statesman” in modern-day reporting of the Nazi leader’s death.

The crash site
The mountainous spot where Raisi was killed - Iranian Red Crescent/AFP via Getty

X users also left community-generated notes on the BBC’s social media post highlighting Raisi’s role in the “mass murder and brutal torture of political dissidents”.

The BBC’s coverage of Raisi’s death also included his role in enforcing Iran’s strict rules requiring women to cover their hair with a hijab or headscarf, as well as the brutal crackdown on demonstrations against the policy after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the “morality police”.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.