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The hardline president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, perished in a helicopter crash

Photo-Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in the mountains yesterday. Raisi, who was considered a strong candidate to be Iran's next supreme leader, was known for his strict stance on morality issues. During his tenure, he navigated severe economic crises and a significant escalation in the conflict with Israel.

Raisi assumed the presidency in 2021, succeeding the moderate Hassan Rouhani. His term was marked by various crises and conflicts, including his hardline domestic policies. A year into his presidency, Raisi enforced stricter measures under Iran's "hijab and chastity law," affecting women's attire and behavior. This move led to widespread protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman who died in custody in September 2022 after allegedly violating dress codes. These protests were among the most significant challenges to Iran's clerical regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, resulting in hundreds of deaths, including many security personnel amid the government's fierce crackdown.

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Raisi's controversial past earned him the nickname "The Butcher of Tehran" among Iran's exiled opposition and human rights groups. In 1988, as the deputy prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, he was involved in the mass executions of Marxists and other leftists. Known as the "death committees," these inquests, composed of religious judges, prosecutors, and intelligence officials, decided the fate of thousands of detainees in rapid, arbitrary trials. Amnesty International reports that at least 5,000 people were executed during this period.

Under Raisi's leadership, tensions with Israel escalated significantly. The recent Gaza conflict led to a series of retaliatory actions, culminating in Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets at Israel in April. Raisi consistently emphasized Iran's support for the Palestinians, a cornerstone of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He affirmed that both Iran and Azerbaijan support the Palestinian people and oppose the Zionist regime.

Raisi, 63, climbed the ranks of Iran's theocracy, from a hardline prosecutor to an unyielding president. He was a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and shared his defiant stance against the United States and Israel. Raisi was also on Washington's sanctions blacklist for his involvement in serious human rights violations.

In nuclear negotiations, Raisi adopted a tough stance, aiming for broad relief from U.S. sanctions in exchange for minimal restrictions on Iran's advancing nuclear technology. The 2018 decision by then-US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions led to Iran gradually breaching the agreement's nuclear limits. Efforts for indirect talks between Tehran and President Joe Biden's administration to revive the deal have since stalled.

May 20, 2024 10:10 a.m. 467

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