Video of late Iranian president on helicopter does not show his 'last moments'

Shortly after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his delegation died in a helicopter crash on May 19, 2024, social media users around the world shared footage that they claimed showed Raisi's last moments onboard the doomed aircraft. However, the recording of the late president looking out at a snowy landscape dates back to Iranian state media reports published in January 2024.

"Moment shortly before his death... Iranian president while on helicopter," a Thai-language Instagram post claimed on May 21, 2024.

The post shares a clip of Iranian President Raisi looking out of a helicopter at a snowy landscape while chatting with a companion.

The same video was also shared alongside a similar false claim in various languages including Thai, English, Chinese and Arabic.

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Screenshot of the false Instagram post, taken on May 28, 2024

Considered an ultra-conservative, Raisi had led Iran since 2021 in a tense international context and amid protests within the country.

His helicopter crashed  into a remote mountainside in heavy fog as the late Iranian head of state travelled to the northern city of Tabriz after inaugurating a dam project on the border with Azerbaijan, state media said.

Among the others killed in the crash was Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, known for his fierce anti-Israel sentiment and scepticism of the West.

Iran-backed members of the so-called "Axis of Resistance" against Israel and its allies expressed their condolences on May 20.

However, the clip does not show Raisi and his delegation shortly before they died -- it predates the crash by at least four months.

Old clip

AFP conducted a Google reverse image search using one of the video's keyframes and found it was first shared on X on January 18, 2024, by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) (archived link).

The Persian-language post translates as, "This morning, the President's aerial visit to the Nemroud Dam in Firouzkoh city."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the false X post (left) and the IRNA's X post on January 18, 2024 (right) with similar elements highlighted by AFP in red:

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Screenshot comparison between the false X post (left) and the IRNA''s X post on January 18, 2024 (right)

The Public Relations Office of Khatam al-Anbia Construction Base on January 18, 2024, published a report that Raisi, accompanied by the Minister of Energy and the Governor of Tehran, visited the national project of Nemroud Dam in Firouzkoh (archived link).

Helicopter crash

A search on the IRNA Telegram account found another clip of the Iranian president taken in a helicopter on May 19, 2024, the same day he was reported to have died (archived link).

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Screenshot of the IRNA''s Telegram, taken May 29, 2024

The clip shows a different man sitting opposite Raisi, who AFP identified as foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, also confirmed to have died in the May 19 crash. 

Below is a screenshot comparison between the clip shared in IRNA's Telegram (left) and a government photo of Amir-Abdollahian (right):

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Screenshot comparison between the clip shared in IRNA''s Telegram, with element highlighted by AFP in red to show Amir-Abdollahian sitting on the far right (left) and Amir-Abdollahian''s official photo (right)

AFP also shared a snapshot from the clip with a caption explaining that it was taken from a video published by the Iranian state television network IRINN on May 19, 2024. 

"[The screenshot] shows Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi (L) with an unidentified member of his delegation on board a helicopter in the Jolfa region of the western province of East Azerbaijan," part of the caption reads.

AFP has debunked misinformation related to the Iranian helicopter crash on May 19, 2024, here, here and here.

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