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Raisi, the figure of the ultraconservatives in Iran who became one of the favorites to replace Khamenei

The late president replaced the moderate Rohani in 2021 after years at the head of the Iranian judicial apparatus

Known as 'The Butcher of Tehran', he was criticized for his role during the execution of thousands of prisoners in 1988.

The Iranian authorities confirmed this Monday the death of the country’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, one of the main representatives of the hardliners and one of the favorites to replace the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the future, after a helicopter accident recorded on Sunday in the province of East Azerbaijan (northwest).

Raisi was one of the occupants of the crashed helicopter, which was transporting him along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hosein Amirabdolahian – also deceased in the event – after participating in the inauguration of a dam near the border with Azerbaijan, an event in which he was the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, is present.

The president, born in 1960 in Mashhad – the second largest city in the country and home to the main Shiite mausoleum in Iran – had participated in the protests against the shah that ultimately led to his overthrow in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. After which he joined the ranks of the judicial apparatus, initially as a prosecutor.

In fact, he became deputy prosecutor of Tehran in 1985, a stage in which he became part of the secret courts created in 1988 to try thousands of political prisoners, many of them members of the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran. (PMOI). The processes, criticized for their opacity, began shortly before the end of the war with Iraq (1980-1988) and resulted in thousands of people being executed.

Although the number of executed remains unknown, the number ranges between 2,800 and 30,000, with Amnesty International putting the total number of executed in 2018 at “between 4,500 and 5,000”. The fact that Raisi was one of the four judges who supervised the process – which led him to be known as ‘The Butcher of Tehran’ – came to light again during the 2021 election campaign, although he rejected the complaints and argued that he was limited to defending national security.

Raisi’s history within the judicial system also led to former President Donald Trump imposing sanctions against him in 2019 – when he was already attorney general of Iran – for the execution of people for crimes committed when they were minors and for the repression of the pro-democratic protests of the Green Movement after the 2009 elections, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won amid complaints of fraud by the opposition.

In addition, Raisi was appointed vice president of the Assembly of Experts in 2019 – responsible for electing the supreme leader – and was custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation, the largest in the Islamic world, which led him to accumulate great power. which led him to position himself as one of the main candidates to replace Khamenei, second leader of the Islamic Revolution, a position he has held since 1989, following the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution.

Raisi’s overwhelming victory in the 2021 elections marked the materialization of his political aspirations, first revealed in 2017, when he ran as a candidate against Hasan Rohani, who nevertheless achieved a second term in the first round after receiving around 57 percent of the ballots.

The 2021 elections marked a victory for the ultra-conservative sector after two terms for Rohani, considered a moderate politician, which materialized after the blocking of the candidacies of many of the moderate and reformist candidates at the polls.

Upon his arrival to the Iranian Presidency, he promised to reinforce the fight against corruption and confront the sanctions imposed by the United States after abandoning the historic 2015 nuclear agreement in 2018 – signed during Rohani’s mandate -, which led to Tehran to strengthen its controversial program, although the Iranian authorities defend that it has only peaceful purposes.

The Iranian president also maintained a hard line during the protests that broke out in September 2022 following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman from the Kurdish minority detained for allegedly wearing the veil incorrectly, and supported the repression of the mobilizations hands of the security forces.

Raisi, who went so far as to describe Amini’s death as “an incident” a year after the young woman’s death, also denounced a “hybrid war” by Western countries, led by the United States, with the aim of destabilizing the authorities. and defended the investigations carried out to clarify the event.

Raisi led a process of rapprochement with Saudi Arabia – countries that had not maintained diplomatic relations since 2016 – materialized in an agreement to restore ties signed in March 2023 with the mediation of China, which gave a boost to the normalization of relations between Syria. and the countries of the region and to peace talks in Yemen, mired in war since 2015.

However, the last months of his mandate have been marked by the conflict unleashed in the Middle East following the attacks carried out on October 7 by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and other Palestinian militias against Israel, which led to the Israeli Army to unleash a bloody offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The threat of expanding conflict in the region came to a head on April 1, when Israel bombed the Iranian Consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing seven members of the Revolutionary Guard, prompting Tehran to launch nearby Two weeks later an attack with nearly 300 missiles and drones against Israeli territory.

The Iranian attacks, which resulted in no fatalities, were followed days later by a drone attack by Israel against the city of Isfahan (center), although the Iranian authorities ruled out casualties, after which they apparently ruled out any other response. , while maintaining their support for Hamas and calling for an end to the offensive against Gaza and consequences against the Israeli authorities for their actions.

Under his rule, Iran reinforced its support for Hamas and other armed groups in the region, including the Lebanese Shiite militia party Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and various militias in Iraq and Syria, which has led the United States , Israel and other Western countries to condemn what they describe as the country’s “malign influence” in the Middle East.

Amirabdolahian, his Foreign Minister since 2021, has died along with Raisi, when he was appointed to the position after the president’s victory at the polls. Since then, he had been the face of Tehran’s diplomatic efforts to break its regional isolation, reinforced by US sanctions.

The late minister, born in 1964 in Damghan, was ambassador to Iraq and Bahrain before being appointed deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs (2011-2016), positions from which he strengthened his ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

In fact, since then he publicly defended Iran’s support for the so-called ‘axis of resistance’, made up of Tehran, Damascus and their allied groups in the region, whose main objective is to confront Israel, the main enemy of the Iranian authorities. in the region.

Among Amirabdolahian’s main work focuses are the aforementioned agreement with Saudi Arabia and the rapprochement with Russia, mainly in economic and military matters within the framework of the invasion of Ukraine, unleashed in February 2022.

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