Iran, President Raisi died in a helicopter crash: who he was and what happens now

Credits: Nasim Online, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

On May 19, 2024 the President of Iran Ebrahim Raisithe foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other Iranian government officials lost their lives following a plane crash: the helicopter they were traveling on crashed, falling in the area of Dizmar Foreston the border between Iran and Azerbaijan. Returning from an institutional trip to Azerbaijani territory for the inauguration of a dam, together with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyevthe helicopter on which Raisi was travelling, appears to have crashed due to thick fog and bad weather, but there is still no official confirmation regarding the reasons for the accident.accident. Some reconstructions focus on obsolete construction techniqueson technologies and on security systems of Iranian helicopters, particularly in bad weather conditions such as those encountered on Sunday 19 May. One of the reasons, according to the Iranian government, is due toembargo to which Iran is subjected, which prevents the supply of cutting-edge equipment and also adequate training techniques for the crews used.

Who was Ebrahim Raisi on a political level

Ebrahim Raisi held the position of President of Iran from 2021, the year in which abstentionism in the elections reached an all-time high in the country: only 41% of voters went to the polls. Seen as one of the potential successors of the Supreme Leader Iranian, the Ayatollah Ali KhameneiRaisi began his career in the 1980s: he was in fact appointed prosecutor of the cities of Karaj and Hamadan and then deputy prosecutor of Tehran in 1985. In 1988 was part of the so-called “Death Committee”a committee born at the end of the war with Iraq, responsible for summary executions, repression and killing of around 30,000 political opponents, denounced by numerous international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

For this reason, in 2019 Raisi was sanctioned by the United States for serious human rights violationsan element that was probably responsible for the loss of the elections in 2919. He was then Attorney General, vice president of the Supreme Court and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 2021. From a political point of view, he was defined as a ultraconservative and during his tenure he had increased restrictions regarding the use of hijab (the Islamic veil) for women, with increasingly severe penalties against homosexuals and with a harsh repression of the protests that took place in Iran starting from 2022, following the death of Masha Amini.

Ebrahim Raisi. Credits: Tasnim News Agency, via Wikimedia Commons.

Possible scenarios after his death

According to the art. 131 of Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iranin the event of illness, permanent incapacity, resignation or death of the President of the Republic, the first vice-president assumes its functions, subject to confirmation by the Supreme Leader, for a maximum period of 50 days within which the new President will be elected. He is currently appointed interim President in Iran Mohammad Mokhber, very close to Ayatollah Khamenei and vice president during Raisi's tenure. Former head ofExecution of the Order of Imam Khomeini or Setad foundation, which owns important shares of several Iranian industries, created in the 1980s with the aim of managing properties that were confiscated after the 1979 revolution. Mokhber he was then deputy governor of the province of Khuzestan and also in the medical corps of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the Pasdaran, during the Iran-Iraq war. Within the established deadline of 50 days, the new President must be elected by a council made up of the head of the judiciary, the vice president and the head of Parliament. So what will happen after Raisi's death? It is important to consider that the Islamic Republic of Iran is at the head of the Supreme Leaderrepresented by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who is the top figure who decides everything, both on issues of foreign policy, internal politics and even approval of candidates in elections. Raisi's death therefore, despite being an important event, in a particularly delicate moment for the Middle East, does not seem at the moment to represent an element capable of creating instability within the country, in particular due to the great weight that the Corps of Revolutionary Guards, i Pasdaran, responsible for the harsh repression of the protests born from the movement “Woman, life, freedom”.

Protests of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, Credits: Taymaz Valley from Ottawa, Canada via Wikimedia Commons.