Ebrahim Raisi obituary


The profession of Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, who has been killed in a helicopter crash aged 63, was outlined by violent occasions. His initiation into politics was triggered by the 1979 Iranian revolution, some of the cataclysmic and epoch-shaping occasions of the late twentieth century, which unfolded with headline-grabbing drama as Raisi was simply turning 18.

Given the heady fervour of that revolutionary interval, with each day mass avenue demonstrations finally resulting in the toppling of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the nation’s as soon as seemingly invincible western-allied monarch, adopted by the return from exile of the messianic cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to ecstatic acclaim, it’s maybe no shock {that a} militant, impressionable younger activist was sucked into the political system that took form within the aftermath, was moulded by it – and later participated in a few of its extra unsavoury actions.

With the theocratic Islamic regime in its infancy, tottering within the face of usually violent inner opposition and army assault from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which invaded Iran in September 1980, the younger Raisi minimize his political enamel within the fledgling system’s judiciary, administering revolutionary justice to political opponents.

He apparently did so with precocious aplomb and a ruthlessness that some say bordered on cruelty. In 1981, aged solely 20, he was appointed prosecutor of Karaj, a big city close to Tehran; inside 4 months, he was combining that position with prosecutor of Hamadan province, greater than 300km away. Political executions throughout this era have been commonplace, though the younger Raisi’s direct position in these have been unclear.

By 1985, his ideological dedication and judicial zeal earned him a big promotion to the submit of deputy prosecutor of Tehran, Iran’s sprawling capital. He was now properly and actually a part of the newly fashioned institution, a lot in order that he finally got here to the direct consideration of Khomeini, by now undisputed chief of the revolution, who reportedly gave him extrajudicial obligations.

It was this relationship that led to a baleful episode that solid a permanent shadow over Raisi’s profession and which, critics say, ought to be the legacy for which he ought to be remembered.

In 1988, he was amongst a minimum of 4 judicial and intelligence ministry-linked figures later revealed to have been members of a shadowy “dying committee” established on Khomeini’s orders to supervise the execution of hundreds of political prisoners.

In response to various estimates, between 1,700 and 4,400 prisoners – largely members of the dissident Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), but in addition leftists, and lots of of them reportedly of their teenagers – have been summarily put to dying. Amnesty Worldwide stated many had been topic to torture and inhumane therapy. To today, the executions characterize arguably the worst violation of human rights within the 45-year historical past of the Islamic Republic.

A surviving political prisoner, Iraj Mesdaghi – a author and activist now exiled in Sweden – recollects seeing Raisi, wearing plain garments quite than clerical robes, arriving at Gohardasht jail in Karaj for the aim of creating certain executions have been carried out and personally witnessing them. One {photograph} of Raisi from the interval depicts a really completely different persona from the austere, turbaned determine of his presidential years.

How Raisi acquired such pitiless zeal is open to query. Born right into a clerical household, close to the non secular shrine metropolis of Mashhad, he had begun seminary research in Qom – seat of Iran’s Shia Islamic institution – on the age of 15, learning on the Ayatollah Borujerdi college at a time when the town started to be plunged right into a state of pre-revolutionary ferment, with cassettes of the exiled Khomeini’s sermons being distributed amongst religious opponents to the shah’s rule.

Regardless of the antecedents, there will be little question that Raisi’s dedication to Khomeini’s puritanical imaginative and prescient of Velayat-e-Faqih (rule by Islamic jurisprudence) was unambiguous and lasting.

Below Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini as supreme chief after the latter’s dying in 1989, Raisi ascended to a collection of senior judicial positions that saved him near the center of the theocracy, together with the position of particular clerical court docket prosecutor from 2012 till 2021 and head of the judiciary. Throughout his two years within the latter submit, he oversaw greater than 400 executions, in accordance with the Norway-based Iran Human Rights Organisation.

On the similar time, because the regime below Khamenei – who has the final phrase on all state issues – turned its face in opposition to liberalising reform, Raisi’s political inventory rose. With the supreme chief’s obvious approval, he stood within the 2017 presidential election as a conservative candidate however was overwhelmed soundly by the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, a centrist who had taken on the mantle of a reformist in a local weather that had grow to be steadily extra illiberal of a loosening of Islamic strictures on social behaviour.

In 2021, as soon as extra with Khamenei’s backing, Raisi tried once more and this time prevailed, on a traditionally low turnout of 48.8% and with 3.7m ballots not counted – both as a result of they have been intentionally left clean or voters had written in protest selections, in anger over the mass disqualification of different candidates.

As a president he appeared a markedly greyer determine than earlier incumbents, such because the populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Mohammad Khatami, the favored cleric who had grow to be a champion of reformism by attempting to loosen up the social impression of Iran’s inflexible non secular guidelines.

However the political – and contrasting – impact of getting Raisi in workplace turned clear in September 2022 following the mass protests triggered by the dying in custody of Mahsa Amini, a younger Kurdish girl who had been arrested for alleged improper observance of Islamic hijab. Her dying spawned a wave of riot and the launch of a self-styled motion calling itself “Girl, Life, Freedom”, with girls overtly flouting strict guidelines on sporting head protecting.

In response, Raisi presided over a brutal clampdown ensuing within the deaths, up to now, of a minimum of 500 protesters. Repression within the Islamic Republic was not new, however critics detected within the severity of the response an ideological zeal larger even than the crackdown on the 2009 protests that had greeted Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.

Raisi’s reward for such orthodoxy was to be spoken of as a potential supreme leader-in-waiting, in succession to Khamenei, who’s 85. The abrupt ending to his life in a downed presidential helicopter terminates a controversial political profession and renders such hypothesis moot.

Raisi is survived by his spouse, Jamileh Alamolhoda, a author and scholar, whom he married in 1983, and their two daughters.


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