Home iran As Mourning Ends in Iran, Politics Begins

As Mourning Ends in Iran, Politics Begins

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President Ebrahim Raisi’s burial at the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad marks the culmination of days of nationwide processions following his death over the weekend in a helicopter crash.

Before his interment at Iran’s largest Shiite shrine in Mashhad, the northeastern city of his birth later on Thursday, a funeral service was conducted in the eastern city of Birjand. There, thousands of supporters gathered to pay their respects and bid farewell to a president whose legacy will remain one of brutality.

While some attendees, such as state employees and those fulfilling their compulsory military service, are usually required to be present, the absence of a spontaneous outpouring of public grief, as seen on some previous occasions, was notable.

Late President Ebrahim Raisi laid to rest at the gold-domed Imam Reza shrine

Unlike the vast gatherings that mourned the death of Revolutionary Guard General Qasem Soleimani in 2020, following his killing in a US drone strike in Baghdad, the attendance at these ceremonies was far from the same scale, the president associated with a failed economy and a period of intensified and ever more brutal oppression since coming to the role in 2021.

President Ebrahim Raisi’s coffin in Tehran during funeral ceremony

Already, media in Tehran is publishing reports and analysis on the upcoming presidential election in June. Names of possible candidates and predictions of who has a better chance circulate. However, everyone within the regime or among the public know that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his loyalists largely control the electoral system.

Raisi himself was elected in a highly controlled vote, with all serious rivals barred from running against him, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

Three days of mourning ceremonies and politics

The initial procession commenced in Tabriz on Tuesday, following the helicopter crash near the Azerbaijan border over the weekend which also killed the foreign minister and six others.

Raisi’s remains were transported from Tabriz, the nearest major city to the remote crash site, to Tehran airport before proceeding to the city of Qom, a Shiite religious center. From there, the journey continued back to the capital, where his casket lay in repose at Tehran’s Grand Mosalla Mosque.

Abdolreza Davari, a former confidant of ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, shared on social media that he estimated the attendance of mourners at approximately 5% of the population in Tabriz, 9% of the population in Qom, and 12% in Tehran, the latter only considering those over the age of 15 in the city. But there are no independent estimates. These numbers means lress than one 1.5 million people. Many Iranians on social media argued that attendance was much lower, in thousands or a few tens of thousands.

On Wednesday, accompanied by his delegation, Raisi’s body was transferred to Azadi Square from Tehran University, where the Supreme Leader led prayers. Subsequently, a ceremony ensued in the presence of “high-ranking foreign delegations.”

However, three former presidents—Mohammad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Rouhani—were notably absent at Tehran’s funeral. Despite sending messages of condolence for Raisi’s death, they were not seen in photographs from the ceremony.

Khatami and Rouhani referred to Raisi as a “martyr” in their messages, having died during an official government trip, whereas Ahmadinejad, in alignment with the Supreme Leader, extended condolences without using the term “martyr.”

In addition to refraining from labeling Raisi as a ‘martyr,’ analysts took notice of Khamenei’s callous remarks regarding him and the country’s future in the hours leading up to the announcement of Raisi’s passing. “The Iranian people need not worry; there will be no disruptions in the country,” Khamenei said with a cold demeanor. This reinforced the argument of critics who increasingly regard the Iranian presidency as more of a ceremonial post, with major decisions made in Khamenei’s headquarters.

Leaders and officials from Iran’s allies and terror-affiliated groups were present at Wednesday’s funeral ceremony in Tehran. Notably absent were Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The absence of Western democratic leaders and dignitaries underscored Iran’s isolation on the global stage. Many democracies worldwide have imposed sanctions on Iran for its military support of Russia in the Ukraine conflict, its backing of terror groups, its nuclear program, and its dismal human rights record.

Meanwhile, the ceremony was attended by controversial Iran-backed terror group figures such as Naim Qassem, deputy secretary general of Lebanese Hezbollah, and Ismail Haniyeh, the political chief of Hamas.