Thousands Mourn Iran’s President Raisi in Memorial Ceremony

Thousands Mourn Iran's President Raisi in Memorial Ceremony

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers at a memorial ceremony for late President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage. They died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Khamenei paid tribute to Raisi at the University of Tehran. Tens of thousands of people walked from Enghelab Square to Azadi Square.

The caskets of Raisi and seven others were draped in Iranian flags with their pictures. Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar reported tight security in the area. Guests at the memorial included Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, Turkey’s vice president, and the head of the Russian Duma.

Haniyeh expressed condolences on behalf of the Palestinian people. He recalled meeting Raisi in Tehran during Ramadan. Raisi had said Palestine was the key issue of the Muslim world.

Khamenei declared five days of national mourning. Memorials for Raisi and his entourage began on Tuesday in Tabriz and Qom. After Wednesday’s procession, Raisi’s body will go to Mashhad. He will be buried at the Imam Reza Shrine. The remains of others who were killed in the crash will also be sent to their hometowns.

State television announced Raisi’s death on Monday. A search and rescue operation was launched, with help from Turkey, Russia, and the EU. Questions have been raised about the use of a two-blade Bell 212 helicopter. Foreign sanctions on Iran have made it difficult to obtain aircraft parts or new aircraft. The country’s armed forces chief of staff ordered an investigation into the crash.

Raisi was elected president in 2021. He was widely expected to succeed Khamenei as supreme leader. At Wednesday’s procession, huge banners hailed the late president as “the martyr of service” and “the servant of the disadvantaged.” However, he leaves a complex legacy, having overseen a deepening economic crisis and a harsh crackdown on mass protests.

Khamenei appointed Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as caretaker president. Al Jazeera’s Serdar noted that Iranian society is deeply divided on political lines. In recent elections, turnout has been lower. The political establishment is trying to increase turnout and show unity.

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