Who is attending Ebrahim Raisi's funeral procession in Tehran?


Wednesday, 22 May 2024 (15:58 IST)
The focus of mourning for the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage switched to Tehran, on Wednesday, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the capital to join funeral processions.
According to the AFP news agency, Tehran residents received text messages urging them to attend the funeral.
People gathered in and around the University of Tehran, many holding portraits of Raisi.
Huge banners have gone up hailing the late president as "the martyr of service" and "the servant of the disadvantaged."
The processions, which will be attended by foreign dignitaries, are planned to begin at the university and head to the central Enghelab Square, state media report.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is due to lead prayers for Raisi and his companions who were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads funeral service
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, led the funeral service for the late President Raisi at Tehran University, proclaiming in Arabic, the language of the Quran: "Oh Allah, we didn't see anything but good from him."
After a short service, the crowds rushed to touch the coffins of Raisi and his entourage, before carrying the caskets out of the university building on their shoulders and chanting "Death to America!"
Iran's acting president, Mohammad Mokhber, openly wept during the service.
The caskets of the deceased are now expected be taken in a procession through central Tehran to Azadi Square – "Freedom Square" – where President Raisi gave speeches in the past.
Who is attending Raisi's funeral procession in Tehran?
The political leader of the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, is attending the funeral events in Tehran, according to the Associated Press.
"I come in the name of the Palestinian people, in the name of the resistance factions of Gaza ... to express our condolences," Haniyeh reportedly told those gathered at Tehran University ahead of the funeral.
Iran has supported and armed Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and launched the terror attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, which sparked the ongoing war in the enclave.
The European Union as well as the United States, Germany and several other countries classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Haniyeh recalled meeting Raisi in Tehran during Ramadan recently and said the late president described the October 7 attack, in which around 1,200 Israelis were killed and about 250 more taken hostage, as an "earthquake in the heart of the Zionist entity."
Also expected to attend services in Tehran were Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a delegation from the Taliban of Afghanistan, including their Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi.
The caskets of the dead were draped in Iranian flags, while a black turban sat on Raisi's coffin — signifying his direct descendance from the Prophet Mohammad.
China: Special representative of President Xi will attend memorial
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing will attend a memorial service for the deceased Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as a special representative of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
Beijing has been steadily developing ties across the Middle East and is becoming an increasingly influential power in the region.
In April 2023, China brokered a historic deal to restore diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia after seven years of cold silence.
Former Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang also made efforts to facilitate peace talks between Israel and Palestinians last year, before the Hamas terror attacks of October 7 prompted Israeli retaliation and the ongoing war in Gaza.
How Iranians abroad have reacted to Raisi's death
While residents of Tehran received text messages encouraging them to take part in the funeral procession for President Raisi and with Iranian prosecutors warning against public celebrations of his death, Iranians abroad have been free to respond differently.
The Iranian diaspora across the world is large and includes many who fled either immediately after the 1979 Islamic Revolution or in response to increasing repression and economic difficulties since.
More than half a million Iranians live in the United States and there are also large Iranian communities in European cities such as London, Paris and Stockholm. Footage has emerged on social media of Iranians abroad celebrating the death of Raisi and his foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
"It's a better world without him," Maryam Namazie, a UK-based women's rights campaigner told the Associated Press (AP). "He is one of the pillars of the Islamic regime of Iran. He has been there since its inception."
Sanctioned by the US for his role in the mass executions of political prisoners following Iran's war with Iraq in the 1980s, Raisi was reviled by opponents, many of whom also hold him responsible for the death of Jina Mahsa Amini in police custody in 2022.
"I understand their anger, I understand why they are celebrating," said Nazenin Ansari, editor of Kayhan London, a regime-critical news website for Iranians abroad. "But I'm sorry he won't be able to stand in a court of law and take responsibility for his actions."
Guilda Torabi, a spokesperson for Homa, an Iranian community and support group in France, told AP: "Each member of this regime that goes is a step forward, a little victory for the Iranian people. We are getting closer to the objective of vanquishing the regime, which gives us hope."
Iran says it located President Raisi's helicopter with its own drones
The helicopter which crashed in the mountains of northwestern Iran on Sunday, killing Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others, was discovered by Iran's own drones, the Iranian military claimed on Wednesday.
"The exact crash site was discovered by ground rescue crews and Iranian military drones in the early hours of Monday morning," read a statement carried by state news agency IRNA, adding that a Turkish drone equipped with night vision technology had returned to Turkey after an unsuccessful search.
Iranian armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri has ordered an investigation into the crash.
President Raisi's chief of staff Gholam-Hossein Esmaeili said in an interview with state television that the weather had been "clear" when the helicopter took off and that there had been "no reason for concern."
Half-an-hour later, however, the aircraft disappeared in thick clouds and lost contact.
The Iranian military's emphasis on its own drone capabilities comes a month after Tehran launched a massive air attack against Israel which, along with ballistic and cruise missiles, also included around 170 drones. The vast majority were shot down.
Iranian-made Shahed drones have also been employed on an almost daily basis by Russia in its aerial bombardments of Ukrainian towns and cities.

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