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Late Iranian president Raisi buried at holiest Shiite site after dying in helicopter crash

In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, flag-draped coffins of the President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, flag-draped coffins of the President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Copyright AP/Iranian Presidency Office
Copyright AP/Iranian Presidency Office
By Euronews with AP
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The days of services for Raisi have not drawn the same crowds in the nation of over 80 million people as the 2020 gatherings for Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, who was slain by a US drone strike in Baghdad.

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was buried at the holiest Shiite shrine in the nation on Thursday, days after a fatal helicopter crash killed him along with the country’s foreign minister and six others.

Mourners lowered Raisi into a tomb at the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, where Shiite Islam’s eighth imam is buried, and millions of pilgrims visit each year. 

Hundreds of thousands of people dressed in black crowded around the shrine under its iconic golden dome, wailing and beating their chests in sorrow in a sign of mourning common in Shiite ceremonies.

The days of services have failed to attract the same large crowds seen during the services for Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani in 2020, who was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Former Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi pays respect to the flag-draped coffin of the late Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
Former Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi pays respect to the flag-draped coffin of the late Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

In Tehran alone, approximately 1 million people flooded the streets to mourn Soleimani -an attendance not observed at the recent commemorations. However, the ceremonies have consistently evoked the memory of the general and prominently featured his image, likely to spark an association between the men.

It’s a potential sign of the public’s feelings about Raisi’s presidency, during which the government harshly cracked down on all dissent during protests over the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old was detained for allegedly not wearing her mandatory headscarf to authorities’ liking.

The government's crackdown on dissent, along with Iran's economic challenges, was not mentioned in the hours of coverage provided by state television and newspapers. Also, there has been no discussion of Raisi's involvement in the mass execution of around 5,000 dissidents at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. 

No information was provided about the cause of the crash of the ageing Bell helicopter carrying him and others through a foggy, mountainous region.

Celebrating the president's death prohibited

Prosecutors have warned people against showing any public signs of celebrating Raisi’s death, and a heavy security force presence has been seen in Tehran since the crash.

Raisi, who was 63, had been discussed as a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader, the 85-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

Iran has set 28 June as the next presidential election. Currently, there is no apparent frontrunner for the position among Iran's political elite.

Acting President Mohammad Mokhber, a relatively unknown first vice president until Sunday’s crash, has stepped into Raisi's role and even attended a meeting between Khamenei and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday.

Raisi is the first top politician in the country to be buried at the shrine, which represents a major honour for the cleric. His father-in-law serves as the city's Friday prayer leader.

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