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Funerals Begin For Iran President, Other Officials

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Funerals Begin For Iran President,

The Iranian government began funeral proceedings Tuesday for its late president, foreign minister and other officials killed in a helicopter crash, as the country attempts to regain footing after the deaths left the Islamic Republic with an uncertain future.

 

 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed when his helicopter crashed under heavy fog and severe weather in the mountainous northwest of Iran Saturday evening. Authorities took nearly a day to locate the crash site due to the difficult weather and terrain.

The circumstances of the crash, which also killed Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, are under investigation by the country’s military.

Raisi, 63, was viewed as a top candidate to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His death now throws that succession into question, with no clear replacement. There is also no immediate front-runner to take over the presidency, with national elections just a month away.

“Raisi’s death comes at a moment when the Islamist regime is consolidated,” wrote Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute, for The Associated Press. “In short, there will be no power vacuum in Tehran; nonetheless, post-Khamenei Iran suddenly looks far less predictable than it did just a few days ago.”

Thousands of mourners dressed in black walked a procession in Tabriz, the nearest major city to the crash site, Tuesday morning alongside the caskets of those killed. The bodies were then transported to Tehran and later to the holy city of Qom.

Raisi, nicknamed the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role organizing mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, ascended to the presidency in 2021. He implemented a crackdown on dissent, despite a rise in protest against the Iranian regime in recent years.

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The country’s prosecutor has already ordered criminal investigations against those who were “publishing false content, lies and insults” against Raisi and others killed in the crash, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency — an attempt to stifle criticism.

Fireworks could be seen around Tehran in apparent celebration of Raisi’s death after it was announced Sunday, while dark jokes and jubilation also spread online, per the AP’s reporting.

The death was mourned by world leaders, with autocrats closely aligned with Iran giving especially kind words. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping all described Raisi as a “friend.”

The State Department expressed its “official condolences” on Monday but the Biden administration did not hold back on criticism for the leader.

“President Raisi was responsible for atrocious human rights in his own country,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “The arrest and the physical violence against hundreds of protesters, for instance. And of course he’s responsible … for the support that Iran provided terrorist networks throughout the region.”

“No question this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands,” Kirby added. “That said, as we would in any other case, we certainly regret in general the loss of life and offered official condolences as appropriate.”

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