Iran pays tribute to its president killed in helicopter crash

Iran pays tribute to its president killed in helicopter crash
Iran pays tribute to its president killed in helicopter crash
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May 21, 2024 – 8:07 p.m.

(Keystone-ATS) A huge crowd paid tribute on Tuesday in Iran to President Ebrahim Raïssi, whose accidental death opened a period of political uncertainty before a presidential election to nominate his successor on June 28.

Scheduled to last until Thursday, the funeral began early in the morning in Tabriz, the large northwestern city near which Mr. Raïssi died in a helicopter crash on Sunday with seven others including the head of the diplomacy Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The eight coffins covered with the Iranian flag were then transferred to the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, where a new ceremony was held.

The funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people, according to the official Irna agency.

In both cities, a huge crowd, dressed mostly in black, marched waving flags and portraits of the president who died at the age of 63 and the seven other victims of the crash, according to images from AFPTV.

In Qom, the highlight was the passage of the coffins, carried at arm’s length in the middle of a visibly moved crowd, into the Massoumeh sanctuary, the most important in the city. Outside, some waved red flags of Shiism and yellow flags of Lebanese Hezbollah.

Iran has declared five days of mourning, and the funeral will continue in Tehran, where Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will preside over prayers at the farewell ceremony on Wednesday, declared a public holiday.

Several foreign countries, such as Russia, Turkey and Iraq, have announced that they will be represented at the funeral, but not at the level of heads of state.

Savvy websites

President of Iran since 2021, Ebrahim Raïssi will be buried Thursday in Mashhad (north-east), his hometown.

These funerals are organized according to the tradition of large gatherings that marked the first 45 years of the Islamic Republic, such as that following the death of General Qassem Soleimani, a senior military official killed by an American strike in Iraq in 2020.

Numerous and immense portraits of the “martyr” Ebrahim Raïssi have been hung and hung in public places in the main cities of the country.

The Iranian president died in the crash of the helicopter which took him to Tabriz on Sunday after attending the joint inauguration of a dam with his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on their common border. Also among the victims are the governor of the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan.

Difficult search and rescue operations were carried out for around twelve hours in poor weather conditions in a steep and wooded region. The wreckage of the helicopter was discovered at dawn on Monday.

An investigation into the causes of the crash was ordered by the chief of staff of the armed forces, Mohammad Bagheri.

The authorities said they had identified “80 websites” having “published insulting comments and rumors about the accident,” the Tasnim agency reported.

“The administrators of several of these sites have been notified and legal action has been taken against some of them,” she added.

“Stability”

After the death of the president, Ayatollah Khamenei, Iranian number one and ultimate decision-maker on strategic issues of the State, assured that there would be “no disruption in the administration of the country”.

The Supreme National Security Council stressed on Tuesday that “the vast presence of the nation” at the funeral ceremonies “guaranteed the stability and national security of the Islamic Republic”.

He assured the support of all bodies of state for the interim president, Mohammad Mokhber, 68, one of whose tasks will be to prepare the presidential election on June 28.

The Assembly of Experts, responsible for appointing, supervising and possibly dismissing the supreme guide, held its first session after being elected in March.

Its members were led by Ayatollah Ali Movahedi-Kermani, an octogenarian who has been a deputy and then a member of the assembly since the Islamic revolution of 1979, according to Irna.

The ultraconservative Raisi was considered one of the favorites to succeed 85-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

During his presidency, Ebrahim Raïssi faced a popular protest movement in 2022, an economic crisis worsened by American sanctions and a worsening of tensions with the sworn enemy Israel.

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