Video of protest against Iran's Raisi at UN is altered

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, has repeatedly used the terms "butcher" and "murderer" to describe Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi, who died May 19, 2024 in a helicopter crash. But a video circulating online in which he appears to be holding a sign saying, "The Butcher of Iran will not be missed" has been digitally altered; the sign in the original footage from September 2023 calls for freedom of Iranian women.

"The Ambassador of the State of Israel to the @UN, His Excellency Mr. @giladerdan1, shares his thoughts on the death of the Butcher of Tehran, #EbrahimRaisi. #Iran," says the text of one May 20, 2024 post of X sharing a video.

In the seven-second clip, Erdan appears to hold a sign with the Iranian flag and the phrase "The Butcher of Iran will not be missed" with the 2016 song "Helikopter" by Fazlija playing in the background.

Similar claims have also appeared online in Spanish and Dutch and the same footage has circulated elsewhere on X, Instagram, Facebook, Threads and YouTube.

Screenshot from Instagram, taken on May 24, 2024

Raisi, an ultraconservative politician who was seen as a possible successor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died alongside seven others after his helicopter crashed in the country's  fog-shrouded mountainous region near the border with Azerbaijan. He had led the country since August 2021 amid rising tensions with the West and internal political uncertainty.

Since Hamas's attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures, Raisi positioned himself as a staunch supporter of Hamas and enemy of Israel in the war in Gaza.

Manipulated video

Most of the social media posts using the clip contain the Instagram username "@diplo.act" and a search on that account's profile revealed the same video published on May 20, 2024 (archived here). However, the post's description includes a line clarifying that it is an "edited video."

A Google reverse image search of a frame from the clip with the words Gilad Erdan, UN and Israel revealed that the original video was published by the ambassador himself on September 19, 2023 on his Instagram account and on X (archived here and here).

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken May 24, 2024

In the original footage, Erdan can be seen holding a printed photo of a woman along with the text: "Iranian women deserve freedom now!" during a September 19, 2023 speech by the Iranian president to the UN General Assembly.

After being escorted out of the General Assembly chamber, Erdan posted about his protest on X, saying: "When President Raisi of Iran, the 'Butcher of Tehran,' began his speech, I waved a picture of Mahsa Amini, the innocent Iranian woman who was brutally murdered by the regime one year ago for not wearing a hijab 'properly'" (archived here).

Erdan's rhetoric

Erdan has referred to Raisi as "the butcher of Tehran" on several occasions. In a May 20, 2024 speech to the UN Security Council, Erdan criticized the observance of a moment of silence to commemorate the former Iranian president's memory. He called Raisi a "terrorist" and asked the body whether they would also observe a minute's silence for Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden (archived here).

"Just this morning, you observed a moment of silence to commemorate the mass-murdering president of Iran," he said in the speech. "A month ago, Raisi, as the Iranian people called him, the butcher of Tehran, launched an unprecedented missile and drone strike on Israel to murder thousands of innocent Israelis. Deliberately."

The next day, Erdan again referred to Raisi as a "mass murderer" in a post on X, calling it "disgraceful" for the United Nations to lower its flag to mark the Iranian president's death at its headquarters in New York City (archived here and here).

AFP has debunked other claims related to the crash in which Raisi died.

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