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regular-article-logo Sunday, 23 June 2024

Khamenei leads prayers for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, others killed in crash

Many of the participants said they came to Tehran for the ceremony from other cities and towns across the Islamic Republic, an indication of how those in Iran’s capital viewed Raisi, who won the presidency in a record-low turnout and later oversaw repeated crackdowns on all dissent — including in the wake of the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini that sparked street protests over Iran’s mandatory hijab, or headscarf

AP/PTI Dubai Published 23.05.24, 08:45 AM
A picture released by the office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (centre) shows Iranian leaders praying over thecoffins of the late President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions at the Tehran University campus on Wednesday.

A picture released by the office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (centre) shows Iranian leaders praying over thecoffins of the late President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions at the Tehran University campus on Wednesday. AP/PTI

Iran’s supreme leader prayed on Wednesday over the coffins of the country’s late President, foreign minister and other officials who were killed in a helicopter crash earlier this week. Later, hundreds of thousands of people followed a procession honouring the dead down Tehran’s main boulevard.

Iran’s Shia theocracy views mass demonstrations as crucial evidence of its legitimacy and the people’s support.

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Still, Wednesday’s funeral service for President Ebrahim Raisi and others saw a turnout that onlookers described as noticeably lower than the 2020 procession honouring Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Many of the participants said they came to Tehran for the ceremony from other cities and towns across the Islamic Republic, an indication of how those in Iran’s capital viewed Raisi, who won the presidency in a record-low turnout and later oversaw repeated crackdowns on all dissent — including in the wake of the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini that sparked street protests over Iran’s mandatory hijab, or headscarf.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who openly wept for Soleimani, also remained composed while reciting the standard prayer for the dead.

“Oh Allah, we didn’t see anything but good from him,” Khamenei said in Arabic, the language of Islam’s holy book, the Quran. He soon left and the crowd inside rushed to the front, reaching out to touch the coffins. Iran’s acting President, Mohammad Mokhber, stood nearby and openly cried.

The death of Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six others in the crash on Sunday comes at a politically sensitive moment for Iran, both at home and abroad.

Raisi, who was 63, had been discussed as a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader, the 85-year-old Khamenei. None of Iran’s living past presidents — other than Khamenei, who was President from 1981 until 1989 — could be seen in state television footage of Wednesday’s prayers. The authorities gave no explanation for their apparent absence.

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