Why is the BBC being so soft on the ‘Butcher of Tehran’?

A bizarre obituary of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi assesses the ‘mixed legacy’ of the brutal theocrat.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics World

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It’s hard to think of anything too positive to say about Ebrahim Raisi. The Iranian president, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, was a hardline Islamist ideologue. During his four-decade rise to the presidency, through a variety of roles in the judiciary and security services, he brutally repressed the Iranian people. Yet somehow, despite this, a bizarre obituary on the BBC website has described his ‘legacy’ as ‘mixed’.

Yes, Raisi was ‘hated’ by many Iranians for his role in the ‘death committee’ that sentenced thousands of dissidents to death in the 1980s, the BBC obit admits. Yes, he was ultimately responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini, a brave Iranian teenager whose only ‘crime’ was to appear in public without a hijab, the article notes. And yes, he poured billions of dollars into Islamist proxy groups like Hamas, the anti-Semitic terror army responsible for 7 October, the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

But was there another side to the man the Iranians dubbed the ‘Butcher of Tehran’? Well, according to the BBC, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that, ‘under his leadership, there was some reform in processing a backlog of court cases’. He also made promises to ‘build affordable houses’ and ‘fight inflation’ (although, as the BBC article later notes, these promises were never kept). And that’s about it, as far as the positives go.

Of course, we all understand the BBC’s duty to be impartial. No one expects or wants the Beeb to produce tub-thumping op-eds denouncing and condemning various world leaders. But this hamfisted attempt at balance ends up severely downplaying Raisi’s brutality. It’s as if a few well-intentioned (and failed) social policies can somehow cancel out decades of violent Islamist repression.

All too often, the BBC and other mainstream-media outlets treat hardline Islamist figures and groups with undue deference. We see this in how the Beeb refuses to directly refer to Hamas as terrorists (although it has recently shifted from the more neutral ‘militant’ to the unwieldy ‘proscribed as a terror organisation by the UK government and others’). We saw something similar in the Washington Post’s description of slain ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an ‘austere religious scholar’ back in 2019.

The mainstream media’s soft-soap approach to Islamism never ceases to stagger me.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics World


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