The ‘Butcher of Tehran’ Is Dead—and Iran’s Church Is Still Growing

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The president of Iran is dead. Ebrahim Raisi, also known by millions of Iranians as “the butcher of Tehran” because of his history of brutality, died in a helicopter crash May 19 in eastern Iran.

The next day in New York City, members of the United Nations Security Council stood for a moment of silence to honor Raisi, 63. Back in Iran, common people shared candies and danced in the streets because they hated this man who was responsible for the deaths of thousands.


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When I watched video footage of the celebrations, I was reminded of an unusual verse in the book of Proverbs that seems to give us permission to gloat when a wicked leader is served justice. Proverbs 11:10 (NASB 1995) says: “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.”

If I had been in that U.N. auditorium in New York, I would not have stood. Raisi was a tyrant who hated Jews, Christians and any Muslim who cared about freedom. An Islamic cleric, he claimed to be a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, but he earned the “butcher” title during his many years in government:

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— He oversaw the execution of thousands of Iranians during the 1980s, when he retaliated against government protesters. The U.S. Institute of Peace estimates that 3,000-5,000 people were killed while Raisi was a member of a four-panel “Death Commission” in Iran.

— During subsequent periods of unrest, Raisi was responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of dissidents, including student protesters. During his 2016 presidential campaign, a tape was leaked that showed he was responsible for executing as many as 5,000 political prisoners.

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