Mourners gather in silent tribute to Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi – The Irish Times

Thousands of Iranians turned out to mourn President Ebrahim Raisi in the city of Tabriz on Tuesday after he died in a helicopter crash near the border with Azerbaijan over the weekend along with his foreign minister and seven others.

State television broadcast live footage of mourners, many of them dressed in black, beating their chests as a truck covered in white flowers carrying coffins draped in the national flag moved slowly through the crowd.

“Everyone has come to say goodbye to the martyred president and his companions, regardless of their faction, ethnicity or language,” said Tabriz lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian.

However, although state television said a large crowd appeared in Tabriz, some insiders see a stark contrast in public grief compared to past commemorations for the deaths of other major figures in the Islamic Republic’s 45-year history.

While Iran proclaimed five days of mourning for Raisi, there was little emotional rhetoric accompanying the death of Qasem Soleimani, a top commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard killed by a US missile in 2020 in Iraq, whose funeral drew large crowds of people. mourners, crying with pain and anger.

Raisi’s body was flown from Tabriz, the nearest major city to the remote crash site, to Tehran airport before heading to the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom. From there, he will return to the capital to lie in state at Tehran’s Mosalla Grand Mosque before being transferred to his hometown of Mashahd, in eastern Iran, for his burial on Thursday.

Mourners carried signs with images of Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Friday prayer leader of the city of Tabriz and other officials who also died in the accident.

The president’s death came at a time of deepening crisis between the clerical leadership and society at large over issues ranging from tightening social and political controls to economic difficulties.

To restore damaged legitimacy following a historically low turnout of around 41 percent in the March parliamentary elections, Iran’s rulers must whip up public enthusiasm to ensure high turnout in the early presidential elections to be held on June 28.

But Iranians still have painful memories of handling the nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown that included mass arrests and even executions.

Widespread public anger over worsening living standards and widespread corruption may also keep many Iranians at home.

Some analysts say millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fueled by a combination of U.S. sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.

Raisi enacted the hardline policies of his mentor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, aimed at entrenching clerical power, repressing his opponents and taking a hard line on foreign policy issues such as nuclear talks with Washington to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact.

Any candidate entering the race must first be vetted by the Guardian Council, a hardline watchdog that has often disqualified even prominent conservative and moderate officials, meaning it is unlikely to change the overall direction of the race. policy.

While widely seen as a leading candidate to replace the 85-year-old supreme leader when he dies, two sources said Raisi’s name had been removed from a list of potential successors about six months ago due to his decline in popularity.

Raisi’s death has introduced “great uncertainty” into the succession, analysts said, sparking rivalries in the hardline camp over who will succeed Ayatollah Khamenei as the country’s top authority. – Reuters