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Iran Mourns: Funeral Procession for Late President Ebrahim Raisi Held

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TABRIZ, Iran — A funeral procession for the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is underway in the city of Tabriz, close to the site where his helicopter crashed on Sunday afternoon.

Tens of thousands of people have turned out for the event on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in the capital of the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan.

This is expected to be one of several processions across the country over the coming weeks.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is expected to lead congregational funeral prayers in Tehran after another procession in the holy city of Qom.

Mourners attend the funeral procession in Tehran. [Atta Kenare/AFP]
Mourners attend the funeral procession in Tehran. | Atta Kenare/AFP

Despite the vast turnout, mourning across the country for the hardline leader has been muted.

Raisi, nicknamed the “Butcher of Tehran” for his role in executing anti-regime protesters in the 1980s, also presided over a vicious crackdown against further protests in 2022 and last year.

US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Raisi “has blood on his hands” for his involvement in suppressing dissent. He described the former hardline cleric as “a brutal participant in the repression of the Iranian people for nearly four decades.”

Rescue teams began searching for Raisi on Sunday afternoon after his aircraft, which also carried nine other officials, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, went missing in Iran’s mountainous northwestern region near the Azerbaijan border.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads a funeral prayer for late President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials killed in the helicopter crash [Handout/Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu via Getty Images]
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads a funeral prayer for late President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials killed in the helicopter crash. | Handout/Iranian Leader Press Office/Anadolu via Getty Images]

On Monday morning, relief workers located the missing helicopter.

State TV reported that the president’s body and that of the others on board had been identified.

Raisi’s death has prompted reactions from leaders around the world. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the “tragic death” of Raisi “a great loss to the Iranian people and the Chinese people have lost a good friend.”

People participate in a funeral procession alongside a lorry carrying the coffins of president Ebrahim Raisi and his seven aides in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province. Photo: AFP
People participate in a funeral procession alongside a lorry carrying the coffins of president Ebrahim Raisi and his seven aides in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province. | AFP

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi expressed solidarity with the Iranian leadership and people in this terrible incident.

European Council President Charles Michel and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also offered their condolences.

The Palestinian group Hamas conveyed its “deepest condolences and solidarity to Khamenei, the government, and the Iranian people for this immense loss.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah praised Raisi and Amirabdollahian for supporting Palestine against Israel.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply saddened and shocked” by Raisi’s death. “His contribution to strengthening the India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered,” Modi wrote on X.

Mourners hold posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a funeral ceremony for him and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, on May 22, 2024. (Atta KENARE / AFP)
Mourners hold posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a funeral ceremony for him and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, on May 22, 2024. | Atta Kenare/AFP

Other leaders, including those from Russia, Japan, and Jordan, also expressed their condolences. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Raisi “an outstanding politician whose entire life was dedicated to serving his homeland” and noted his role in developing strategic partnerships between Iran and Russia.

The late president’s controversial legacy has left a complex mark on Iran, with significant international ramifications.

As the country begins its mourning process, the impact of his leadership and the future direction of Iranian politics remain topics of global interest and scrutiny.

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