Pouria Zeraati: Stabbed Iranian TV host says he will be back on air soon

Pouria Zeraati in hospital, following a stabbing attack
Pouria Zeraati is in a positive mood and recovering from the attack, his friend Kasra Aarabi said [@pouriazeraati]

An Iranian TV journalist stabbed outside his London home has vowed he will be back on air soon.

Pouria Zeraati is now staying in a safe house after the attack on Friday, which is being investigated by Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism officers.

Speaking to a friend, Mr Zeraati said he would carry on his work, no matter who was behind the attack.

His employer said they had received threats from the Iranian regime, but Iran denied any involvement.

Mr Zeraati is unable to give an interview but has spoken to his friend Kasra Aarabi, who spoke to the BBC.

Mr Aarabi, an outspoken critic of the regime in Tehran, works for a campaign group where he researches the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The IRGC is a powerful paramilitary group within the Iranian regime which has been accused of targeting journalists at Iran International, where Mr Zeraati works.

Mr Aarabi said his friend was in a positive frame of mind and recovering. He described the attack as horrific but said: "Pouria has told me, regardless of who is behind this, he won't be silenced, he'll carry on."

He said the 36-year-old journalist told him that he had sensed that something was about to happen just before the attack. Two people had been spotted hanging around his quiet suburban street in Wimbledon, south-west London, he said.

"Pouria crossed the road to get to his car, he noticed one man approaching, so he backed off," Mr Aarabi said.

He said the man then asked Mr Zeraati in English: "Brother, can I have three pounds?"

Mr Zeraati told the man he did not have any money and turned back towards his car to open the door. The man then signalled to a second person, who ran towards the TV host with his face covered and grabbed him in a bear hug, pinning his arms.

Pouria Zeraati and Kasra Aarabi on the set of the Last Word on Iran International
Presenter Pouria Zeraati (right) has previously invited his friend Kasra Aarabi on his TV show, the Last Word [KASRA AARABI]

"Pouria told me he couldn't move, he had lost all control," Mr Aarabi said. "At which point the first person, who asked for money, stabs him several times in the back of the thigh."

The attack was over quickly, Mr Aarabi said, and the assailants ran down the road to a parked car.

The Met Police said there is now an international investigation after officers identified three suspects, who they believe all fled the UK within hours of the attack.

The Met did not say where the men have flown to.

Mr Aarabi said he believes this was a targeted attack and Mr Zeraati has said on social media that it was "purposefully planned".

"Nothing was stolen from Pouria, his phone, he had brand new Apple AirPods, his wallet with cash in it and a valuable watch - they weren't interested in taking anything of value," said Mr Aarabi.

"It could be a local gang who have been paid to do this - we know the Iranian regime has been accused of this before. The regime may have also flown in its operatives.

"The other option is that these are local home-grown attackers radicalised and recruited by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in the UK, which is a terrifying but real prospect."

Iran's charge d'affaires in the UK, Mehdi Hosseini Matin, said "we deny any link" to the attack.

In January, the BBC revealed videos obtained by Mr Aarabi of former and current Iranian Revolutionary Guard generals holding online events with British student organisations.

In one speech, an IRGC commander described an apocalyptic war that the British students could join to "bring an end to the life of the oppressors and occupiers, Zionists and Jews across the world".

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into the allegations.

Mr Aarabi, who has previously warned of the threats to Iranians living in the UK from the Iranian regime, said the risks to Mr Zeraati intensified after his "outspoken" coverage of the protests which followed the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, after she had been detained by Iran's morality police.

Wanted poster featuring Pouria Zeraati and Sima Sabet, along with other journalists
Pouria Zeraati and Sima Sabet were featured on "wanted" posters by the Fars news agency and on Tehran streets [BBC]

He said that in November 2022, the IRGC-backed Fars news agency published "Wanted: dead or alive" posters, showing the faces of Iran International journalists including Pouria Zeraati. The posters were seen on the streets of Tehran and were put up by the IRGC, Mr Aarabi said.

The poster also featured Sima Sabet, another Iran International journalist in London who was the reported target of a failed assassination plot last year along with another colleague, Fardad Farazad.

Since the attack on Mr Zeraati, she said she has been told by police to leave her home immediately.