World

Thousands bid farewell to Iran’s Raisi ahead of burial

Published May 23, 2024
Mourners attend the funeral of Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Photo: AFP
Mourners attend the funeral of Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Photo: AFP

TEHRAN: Thousands marched in Iran on Thursday on the final day of funeral rites for president Ebrahim Raisi, who will be laid to rest in his hometown days after dying in a helicopter crash.

Raisi, 63, died on Sunday alongside his foreign minister and six others when their helicopter crashed in the country’s mountainous northwest while returning from a dam inauguration.

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Thousands of people, holding placards of Raisi and waving flags, marched in the eastern city of Birjand on Thursday morning to bid the president farewell.

His final resting place will be at the holy shrine of Imam Reza, a key Shia mausoleum in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where the ultra-conservative president was born.

Images published by Iranian media on Wednesday showed officials in Mashhad preparing for the final day of funerary rites.

Large photos of Raisi, black flags and Shiite symbols were erected throughout the streets of Iran’s second city, particularly around the Imam Reza shrine.

 Raisi’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with Iran’s arch-enemy Israel. Photo: AFP
Raisi’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with Iran’s arch-enemy Israel. Photo: AFP

Massive crowds had gathered for a funeral procession on Wednesday in the capital Tehran to pay their final respects to the president, whom officials and media dubbed a “martyr”.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – whom Raisi had been widely expected to succeed – led prayers for the late president, kneeling before the coffins of the eight people killed in the crash.

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Among them was foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who will also be buried Thursday in the shrine of Shah Abdol-Azim in the town of Shahr-Rey south of the capital.

 A woman holds her cat as she joins the crowds attending Raisi’s funeral. Photo: AFP
A woman holds her cat as she joins the crowds attending Raisi’s funeral. Photo: AFP

Iranian officials and foreign dignitaries paid their respects to the late top diplomat at a ceremony in Tehran ahead of the burial.

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Tunisian President Kais Saied and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani attended an afternoon ceremony for Raisi on Wednesday in which around 60 countries took part, said state news agency IRNA.

Tens of thousands gather for Raisi funeral procession in Tehran

Member countries of the European Union were among the absentees of the ceremony, while some non-member countries, including Belarus and Serbia had their representatives.

Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, has declared five days of national mourning and assigned vice president Mohammad Mokhber, 68, as caretaker president until a June 28 election for Raisi’s successor.

A presidential election in Iran had not been expected until next year, and Sunday’s crash has caused some uncertainty as to who will succeed Raisi, with some expressing concern about the upcoming president.

 Mourners attend Raisi’s funeral in Tehran. Photo: AFP
Mourners attend Raisi’s funeral in Tehran. Photo: AFP

“How do I find someone like him? I’m really worried about that,” said 31-year-old cleric Mohsen at Wednesday’s funeral in Tehran. “As far as I know, we don’t have anyone of his stature.”

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Raisi was elected president in 2021, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani at a time when the economy was battered by US sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear activities.

The ultra-conservative’s time in office saw mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.

After his death, Russia and China sent their condolences, as did NATO, while the UN Security Council observed a minute’s silence.

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