Has the BBC discovered 50,000 previously unknown Jews in Iran?

An article appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on September 5th reports on “Confusion over purported tweets from Iran’s Rouhani“.

The Tweet in question is this one below and, as readers have no doubt already heard, one of Rouhani’s advisers has already denied that it was sent by the Iranian president himself.

Rouhani tweet

But no less interesting than the story itself is the fact that the BBC appears to have discovered (or invented) at least fifty thousand previously unknown Iranian Jews.

“In addition, the fact that Mr Rouhani congratulated Jews on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah would not necessarily be controversial, correspondents say. Iran has a Jewish community of between 25,000 and 80,000.” [emphasis added]

BBC Rouhani tweet

The 2011 Iranian government census cited a population of fewer than nine thousand Jews in Iran.

“There are 8,756 Jews in the country, according to the census. That was fewer than the 20,000 figure previously estimated.”

Ha’aretz and CNN both put the number of Iranian Jews at around ten thousand whilst the National Geographic cites an upper estimate of 25,000. According to the Tehran Jewish Committee and the US State Department there are up to 30,000 Jews in Iran and in 2006 the BBC itself cited a figure of twenty-five thousand. 

Whilst the size of the contemporary Jewish community in Iran is notoriously difficult to quantify due to the reluctance of some (for obvious reasons) to identify themselves as Jewish, even the most generous estimates do not top thirty thousand: 50,000 fewer than the upper number cited in this article. If the BBC has factual evidence to support the claim of a Jewish population in Iran numbering 80,000 – a figure over 71,000 above the number given in the official census and interestingly identical to the numbers known at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979 – that certainly would be news. 

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