Thousands bid farewell to Iran’s president

Henry

Thousands of Iranians united in mourning on Tuesday after the death of this country’s head of state, pres. Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi and seven members of his entourage, including Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the foreign minister, died when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous region of Iran on Sunday.

People gathered on Tuesday morning in a square in the northwestern city of Tabriz, where Raisi was on his way when his helicopter crashed.

Thousands of mourners with Iranian flags and portraits of the late president walked from Valiasr Square behind a truck carrying the coffins of Raisi and his entourage.

“We, the members of the government who had the honor of serving this beloved and hard-working president, undertake… to follow the path of these martyrs,” Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian minister of interior affairs, said at one stage.

Raisi’s body will be flown from Tabriz to Qom, the Shiite spiritual center, later today before being flown to Tehran this evening.

Marches will be held in the capital on Wednesday morning followed by a farewell ceremony during which Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, will lead the prayer.

Raisi’s body will be taken from there to his home city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran where he will be laid to rest after funeral rites on Thursday evening.

Khamenei has meanwhile announced five days of mourning and appointed deputy president Mohammad Mokhber (68) as acting president until a presidential election can be held.

The election is expected to take place on June 28.

Ali Bagheri, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, has since been named acting foreign minister.

RNews earlier reported that radio contact was lost with Raisi’s helicopter on Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of search and rescue teams searched through the night before the wreckage was found shortly after sunrise on Monday.

The wreckage of the blue-and-white Bell 212 helicopter was found in East Azerbaijan province, about 3 km northeast of the small town of Tavil. There were no survivors among the nine people on board.

The victims were Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, a provincial governor, an imam, the helicopter’s three crew members and two bodyguards.

State media reported that the helicopter “hit a mountain and disintegrated”. Dense fog hung in the area during the incident.

Raisi and his entourage were on their way back from the East Azerbaijan province after a dam project was launched together with the president of Azerbaijan.

Raisi, an ultra-conservative leader who has served as president of Iran since 2021, had to face mass protests, a deepening economic crisis and unprecedented armed skirmishes with Israel, Iran’s arch-enemy, during his tenure.