Iran inters late President, others at holiest Shiite site after crash
   Date :24-May-2024

Iran inters late President 
IRAN interred late President Ebrahim Raisi at the holiest Shiite shrine in the nation on Thursday, days after a fatal helicopter crash killed him along with the country’s Foreign Minister and six others. Mourners lowered Raisi into a tomb at the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, where Shiite Islam’s eighth imam is buried and millions of pilgrims visit each year. Hundreds of thousands of people dressed in black crowded around the shrine under its iconic golden dome, wailing and beating their chests in sorrow in a sign of mourning common in Shiite ceremonies. A hadith, or saying, attributed to Islam’s Prophet Mohammad states that anyone with sorrow or sin will be relieved through visiting there. But for Iran, crippled by international sanctions, struggling with internal unrest and facing challenges abroad, Thursday’s mass processional may not be a permanent salve. The days of services have not drawn the same crowds in this nation of over 80 million people as those that gathered for services for Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2020, slain by a US drone strike in Baghdad.
In Tehran alone, an estimated 1 million people turned out in the streets for Soleimani — something onlookers said they didn’t see at the men’s commemorations Wednesday. Yet the ceremonies have repeatedly invoked the general and included his image, likely to spark an association between the men. It’s a potential sign of the public’s feelings about Raisi’s presidency during which the Government harshly cracked down on all dissent during protests over the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, detained for allegedly not wearing her mandatory headscarf to authorities’ liking. That crackdown, as well as Iran’s struggling economy, have gone unmentioned in the hours of coverage provided by state television and in newspapers. Never discussed was Raisi’s involvement in the mass execution of an estimated 5,000 dissidents at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Nor has there been any information about the cause of the crash of the aging Bell helicopter carrying him and others through a foggy, mountainous region. Prosecutors have warned people against showing any public signs of celebrating Raisi’s death and a heavy security force presence has been seen in Tehran since the crash. Raisi, who was 63, had been discussed as a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader, the 85-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran has set June 28 as the next presidential election. For now, there’s no clear favorite for the position among Iran’s political elite — particularly no one who is a Shiite cleric, like Raisi.
Acting President Mohammad Mokhber, a relatively unknown first vice president until Sunday’s crash, has stepped into his role and even attended a meeting between Khamenei and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday. Mashhad long has been a base for Raisi. In 2016, Khamenei appointed Raisi to run the Imam Reza charity foundation, which manages a vast conglomerate of businesses and endowments in Iran, as well as oversees the shrine. It is one of many bonyads, or charitable foundations, fueled by donations or assets seized after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. These foundations offer no public accounting of their spending and answer only to Iran’s supreme leader. The Imam Reza charity, known as “Astan-e Quds-e Razavi” in Farsi, is believed to be one of the biggest in the country. Analysts estimate its worth at tens of billions of dollars as it owns almost half the land in Mashhad. Raisi is the first top politician in the country to be buried at the shrine, which represents a major honor for the cleric. His father-in-law serves as the city’s Friday prayer leader. The deaths of Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian come as Iran continues to back militia groups in the wider Mideast to pressure its enemies, namely Israel and the United States.
Mourners have chanted against both nations in the ceremonies. State media circulated photos Thursday showing a meeting between Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard chief and the head of its expeditionary Quds Force and representatives from Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Thursday morning, thousands in black gathered along a main boulevard in the city of Birjand, where Raisi once served as its member on the Assembly of Experts in Iran’s South Khorasan province along the Afghan border. There and in Mashhad, mourners on the streets reached out to a truck carrying his casket, with some tossing scarves and other items against it for a blessing. Meanwhile, former Foreign Ministers Mohammed Javad Zarif and Ali Akbar Salehi and other dignitaries paid respects to Amirabdollahian at Iran’s Foreign Ministry, where his casket was put on display. His body later was interred in Shahr-e Rey just outside of Tehran at the Abdol Azim shrine, another final resting place for those famed in Persian history. “Give Soleimani our greetings,” a religious singer said as Amirabdollahian’s body was placed inside its final resting place, referring to the slain general.