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Raisi’s Death: Iran Harasses Dissidents to Stifle Celebrations

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Amid funeral ceremonies for President Ebrahim Raisi, Iranian authorities are cracking down on the families of dissidents celebrating his death, issuing threats and making arrests.

This week, following the helicopter crash that killed both Iran’s president and foreign minister, Iranians across the country reacted by celebrating the demise of the two men.

In exclusive conversations with Iran International’s English desk, the families of slain protesters and survivors blinded during the 2022 anti-regime protests in Iran, are expressing relief, joy, and what they say is their renewed resolve to continue to fight for justice and freedom in Iran.

The unprecedented nationwide protests, dubbed the “Woman Life Freedom” movement, were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini at the hands of Iran’s so-called morality police. The months-long demonstrations were said to be the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leaders in decades.

While Raisi was president, under the directive of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the protests were met with severe crackdowns, and the state’s security forces killed at least 500 protesters and imprisoned tens of thousands.

Families of protesters and dissidents have since faced surveillance, threats and intimidation by the authorities to prevent them from speaking out about the fate of their loved ones.

‘Stop celebrating Raisi’s death, or we will kill your other nephews too’

The family of 17-year-old Artin Rahmani Piyani, one of the children killed in the Iranian security forces’ crackdown on protests in 2022, was among those targeted by the authorities this week.

Celebrating the news of Raisi’s death, Foad Choobin, the teenager’s uncle, shared videos on X of his nephew Piyani dancing.

Piyani’s mother, Hengameh Choobin similarly posted a video of her son laughing, with the caption “We are feeling better”.

On Tuesday, Foad Choobin revealed that the intelligence ministry contacted him with a warning: they would kill his remaining nephews and nieces if his family, including Piyani’s mother, continued to post content celebrating the President’s death.

“We didn’t have a single day of happiness… Now, with Raisi’s death, we feel a little better… but in my view, a murderer who took the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people had a very easy death,” Foad Choobin said.

Foad Choobin had previously been arbitrarily arrested, tortured, and imprisoned by Iranian authorities in an effort to silence the family for speaking out about his nephew’s killing.

“I will not be silenced and I am determined to continue the path of seeking justice for my nephew Artin, and all those killed by the state and all those silenced,” Choobin said.

Although Choobin said he is rejoicing over Raisi’s death, he knows that the President was “just one of the executioners of the Islamic Republic regime.”

“I want to see the moment of the demise of all of the murderers in the Islamic Republic in front of our own eyes, just as they took our dear ones’ lives in front of our eyes. The Islamic Republic regime must be destroyed altogether so that we can feel truly joyful,” he said.

Other family members of protest victims were arrested by security forces.

On Monday, Reza Babrnejad was arrested by security forces in the northeastern city of Quchan, for allegedly posting Instagram stories about Raisi’s death.

Babrnejad’s brother, 22-year-old Mehdi Babrnejad, who was killed by the Iranian state’s security forces amid the September 2022 protests.

Dadban, an organization offering pro-bono legal support to Iranian dissidents, says Babrnejad’s mother confronted the authorities when they detained her son.

“Your president is dead? Weren’t our children human? Why did you kill them?” his mother reportedly told the security forces.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) intelligence agents also targeted Babrnejad in 2023, around the time that would have marked his brother Mehdi’s 23rd birthday.

This arrest, like that of Foad Choobin, was part of a broader crackdown aimed at silencing victims’ families, through harassment and intimidation, to prevent them from commemorating their loved ones.

Exiled relatives of protesters rejoice over Raisi’s sudden death

Relatives of protesters outside of Iran similarly rejoiced over the sudden death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian.

Mahsa Pirayi (Piraei), who fled Iran after her 62-year-old mother Minoo Majidi was killed during the protests, told Iran International that Raisi’s death brings her renewed determination.

“All of us—the justice-seeking families of victims—are happy that the murderers of our loved ones and the criminals who restricted the Iranian nation were killed. We are more determined than ever to continue our advocacy and be the voice of our loved ones until we reach absolute victory and freedom!,” she said.

Sharing a video on X, Pirayi and her sister Roya Pirayi toasted to the news of the missing helicopter carrying the President and Foreign Minister.

The sister of slain protestor Shahriar Mohammadi, Asrin Mohammadi, says the news of Raisi’s death brought deep joy to her household.

“We were extremely happy. It felt as if Shahriar had come back to life…I woke up everyone in the house singing ‘Wake up, wake up, it’s a party and it smells like barbecue but hold your nose because the barbecue smells like sludge’,” she told Iran International.

According to Mohammadi, a group of mothers whose children were killed in the northwestern city of Bukan during the 2022 protests celebrated the news of the deaths at their children’s graves. She says the mothers placed chocolates on the graves, telling them “we have good news—freedom is near.”

“At the gravesites, they told their buried children that they’re happy. Some of the mothers wanted to dance Kurdish out of joy, but it started raining. They were so happy that they didn’t want to go home,” Mohammadi said.

The mother of Abolfazl Amir-Ataei, a 16-year-old Iranian teenager who was shot and later died from his injuries amid protests, also celebrated Raisi’s sudden death.

She says that while she doesn’t wish death upon anyone, her hatred for Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian made her hope that the helicopter crash would end up being fatal.

Dior would share a video on Instagram that begins with an infamous clip of the late Iranian foreign minister denying that anyone was killed during the 2022 uprising.

The video continues to show Dior, speaking about her joy upon hearing the confirmed news of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian’s death:

“I am very happy. I am very happy that my cries of one year and the pain of nine months were finally answered. I was losing hope in karma and God…but I am very happy now…because those who were the cause of pain and suffering for my son and I…those who destroyed our lives, met their fate and I am waiting for the rest of them to be held accountable,” she said.

‘Raisi should have been tried in criminal court,’ say blinded dissidents

Iranians who survived anti-regime protests with severe injuries, such as blindness, also voiced their reaction to the death of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian.

Saman, a dissident who widely goes by the pseudonym for security reasons, was blinded amid the 2022 protests.

Like many in the Iranian diaspora, he said he had wished Raisi faced trial for the crimes he committed.

“Humanity always says that the death of any creature is distressing, but with every breath criminals like Ebrahim Raisi and Ali Khamenei and their other mercenaries threaten the world. In a free Iran in the future, all these people should be tried in just public courts,” he told Iran International.

He says he feels happy about Raisi’s death, because a “threat against humanity has been removed.”

“On the other hand, I wish [Iran] would have been freed and that this criminal faced trial before dying, and confessed to his crimes in front of the cameras of the world,” he said.

Yaser Alvandiani, another protester blinded by Iranian security forces during the 2022 uprising, said he had a “strange feeling.”

“The joy in my eyes is accompanied by tears, the tears from my blind eye begin to shed sooner. Tears of joy and happiness, and a heart that longed to see this demon tried in a court of justice for his countless injustices… And yet, the joy of the families of victims seeking justice in their messages to me… families whose hair turned gray within a mere few months… Could this joy be a glimpse of the dawn of freedom for our Iran? Could it? There is this joy that I saw from all of Iran. It is the joy of all the blood-soaked children for the dawn of freedom… Freedom, happiness, and prosperity are the end of our path… Long live Iran.”