Iran’s Supreme Leader presided over a prayer ceremony for the President

Crowds packed the streets of Tehran and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, performed prayers on Wednesday for the country’s president, with senior officials from the militant groups Hamas and Iran-backed Hezbollah participated in the memorial service.

The presence of the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah – two key Iranian proxies in the Middle East – along with a host of non-Western officials provided a clear illustration of Tehran’s international standing. at a time of turmoil for the country. The death of president Ebrahim Raisi has added further complexity and instability.

Grandfather. Raisi63 years old, was killed in a helicopter crash together with Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, 60, and five others were with them on Sunday. Ayatollah Khamenei declared five days of mourning and the funeral began on Tuesday with a procession in Tabriz, the major city closest to the crash site in northwestern Iran. The bodies of Mr. Raisi and the others who died were later taken to the holy city of Qom and the capital Tehran, ahead of Wednesday’s event.

Iranian security forces have implemented tight traffic restrictions on the city, Tehran police chief Colonel Abdolfazl Mousavipour told state television overnight. State television also reported that public transport would be free on Wednesday – declared a national holiday – so people could attend the funeral.

On Wednesday morning, state media broadcast footage of huge crowds making their way to Tehran University, where flag-draped coffins were placed in a large hall.

Ayatollah Khamenei, 85 years old, entering with an entourage, placed his staff in front of the coffin before performing a prayer. State media footage showed his words being broadcast over loudspeakers to a crowd standing outside with their heads bowed in prayer.

Mr. Raisi was considered a potential candidate to succeed the supreme leader, whose health is said to be declining. After performing prayers, Ayatollah Khamenei hugged Mr. Raisi’s relatives, videos on state media showed, stroking the head of a young boy.

A funeral followed, with the crowd gathering on an open truck carrying the coffin to Tehran’s Azadi – or Freedom – Square, passing billboards depicting Mr. smile. Many people carried photos of the president; most wore black.

“If there is one thing the Islamic Republic is really good at is organizing funerals and bringing its core voters to the streets,” Ali Vaez, Iran director for the International Crisis Group, said of the scene. “It was a show of force intended to demonstrate the regime’s legitimacy to its domestic supporters and its enemies abroad.”

A ceremony – scheduled to take place at 4pm local time and state media said will include more than 40 people.high-level foreign delegations,” which includes 10 heads of state – would likely serve similar goals.

State media broadcast footage of people hailing arrivals at Tehran airport, where a red carpet welcome was rolled out Tunisian presidents, Kais Saied and Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon. Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, also made it to the next round, along with Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan.

“Foreign delegates in attendance reflect the current state of Iran’s relationship with the outside world: low levels of Western representation coupled with high levels of participation from neighboring countries,” Mr. Vaez said. Iran’s non-state neighbors and allies”.

These included representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah, who appeared at Wednesday’s commemoration, amid chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

In a speech at the funeral, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’ exiled political faction, recalled meeting Mr. Raisi in Tehran during the holy month of Ramadan. At that meeting, Mr. Haniyeh said, Mr. Raisi emphasized Iran’s “irreversible” commitment to the Palestinian cause, according to Iranian state media.

The presence of Mr. Haniyeh – the latter was shown on a separate state news media conference with Ayatollah Khamenei – came despite the prospects An arrest warrant is imminent from the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (Iran is no partying according to the statute establishing the court.)

Hamas is an important force part of a proxy network that Iran has developed and supported in the region. The militant group’s attack on Israel in October and Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza were dramatic. tensions escalate last month put Israel and Iran on edge exchange rare direct attacks.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which on Monday remembered Mr. Raisi as a “big brother,” sent Naim Qassem, the group’s deputy secretary general, to the funeral.

While thousands of government supporters attended funerals and memorial services across Iran, many Iranians who opposed the government and despised Mr. Raisi for his record of human rights abuses were indifferent, some even cheered his death.

As investigators looked into the cause of the helicopter crash – state media reported that it was due to a “technical error” and that the Iranian military was taking the lead. a commission – more details have emerged about its final moments.

State media reported that Gholamhossein Esmaili, Iran’s presidential chief of staff, had said that weather conditions were normal when the helicopter took off on Sunday. Mr. Esmaili was on one of two other helicopters accompanying Mr. Raisi and returned home safely.

Mr. Esmaili said that after about 45 minutes of the flight, the helicopter pilot carrying Mr. Raisi asked the plane crew to increase altitude to avoid clouds. But Mr. Raisi’s helicopter disappeared.

Mr. Esmaili told state television that multiple attempts to contact him by radio were unsuccessful. One of the passengers on Mr. Raisi’s helicopter, a local prayer leader in Tabriz, finally answered the phone and said the helicopter had crashed. The prayer leader, Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, later passed away.

Farnaz Fassihi, Leily Nikounazar And Euan Ward Report contributions.


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