Iranians celebrate Raisi's death: "He has the blood on his hands of hundreds of thousands of people"

Known as 'the butcher of Tehran', Raisi was responsible for the murder of thousands of political dissidents in the 1980s. His rule was also marked by brutal oppression of the Iranian population 
Se ven carteles con imágenes mientras estadounidenses iraníes y otros participan en una manifestación cerca de la sede de las Naciones Unidas durante la visita del presidente iraní Ebrahim Raisi en la ciudad de Nueva York, EE.UU., el 19 de septiembre de 2023
Demonstration near the United Nations headquarters during the visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in New York City, U.S., September 19, 2023 - REUTERS/YANA PASKOVA

As the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran prepares the state funeral of President Ebrahim Raisi, the vast majority of Iranians - both inside and outside the country - celebrate his death. 

Many years before becoming Iran's president, Raisi was a member of the so-called 'death commission', a body responsible for numerous enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions of thousands of political dissidents in the Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988. 

During his two years as head of the judiciary, he was responsible for the execution of more than 400 people, including political dissidents and protesters such as Navid Afkari, Mostafa Salehi, Ruhollah Zam and Hedayat Abdollahpour, as well as the murder of at least seven juvenile offenders, 25 women and one man for drinking alcohol, according to the NGO Iran Human Rights. 

Once in power, Raisi's tenure was marked by brutal oppression of the Iranian population following protests sparked by the assassination of Mahsa Amini. These demonstrations resulted in hundreds of people being killed by police forces, as well as detainees who, in many cases, were tortured in custody.  

Some of those arrested during these protests were subsequently hanged by the authorities, including Mohammad Ghobadlou, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Seyed Mohammad Hosseini and many others.  

To analyse how Iranians have experienced this event, as well as the future of the country after Raisi's death, Atalayar talks to Nilufar Saberi, an Iranian activist. 

How do Iranians assess the fatal accident of President Ebrahim Raisi? 

First of all, we have serious doubts that it was an accident. There were three helicopters in the same atmospheric conditions and the other two arrived safely. When the news was announced, the authorities gave very contradictory information. They even said that they had spoken to some of the occupants of the helicopter Raisi was on and that everything was under control. Later, one of the occupants of another helicopter said that he had seen smoke from Raisi's helicopter. 

In addition, Raisi was initially going to ride in another helicopter and was made to change helicopters because the one he was going to ride in did not offer "the same safety".

There is a theory that they eliminated him themselves, as they have done with many other high-ranking officials within Iran's Islamist theocracy. 

How has Iranian society, both inside and outside the country, reacted to the president's death? 

The vast majority of Iranians, both inside and outside Iran, have experienced it with great jubilation. The butcher of Tehran, who became president with the lowest turnout for presidential elections in the history of the Islamist theocracy, was a criminal who is being prosecuted outside Iran for crimes against humanity. Obviously, one less criminal brings joy. He has the blood on his hands of hundreds of thousands of Iranians. 

In Iran and outside the country, Iranians have been handing out sweets and celebrating. Even people whose birthdays have coincided with Raisi's death have recorded videos claiming that it is the best birthday present they have ever had in their lives. 

But it was not only celebrated in Iran. There have also been celebrations in Syria, where Iran's Islamist theocracy is directly responsible for killings and displacement due to Iran's military intervention and support for Syria's dictatorship in order to keep it in power.  

What was the Iranian perception of Ebrahim Raisi? 

Apart from seeing him for what he was, the butcher of Tehran and a criminal against humanity, he was seen as a Russian token, just like Khomenei. Hence they have open-handedly given away resources to Russia and China as well. But Russia, with them in power, practically calls the shots in Iran. 

In this sense, some theorise that the attack on Raisi is a show of power by the US towards the Russians. As was the case with Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the Americans in Iraq. 

Many Iranians have celebrated the president's death, but world leaders have expressed their condolences and the UN has observed a minute's silence. How are these gestures by the international community perceived in Iranian society?

Iranians, as always, take these links between international governments and a terrorist government very badly. We find it miserable because they put at risk, not only the Iranian people, but also the future of their own countries, their children, their grandchildren.

After his death, what is expected to happen now in Iran? Could Raisi's death be the beginning of the end of the regime? 

Raisi's death does not bring about any internal change in the government, as no president in Iran has ever been able to act as such. Power is in the hands of the supreme leader, Ali Khomenei, and the Revolutionary Guards.  

The presidents, therefore, are puppets who are there, just like the deputies and every other institution in Iran. Each and every one of them is absolutely window dressing, window dressing, window dressing. None of them have any autonomy. There is no separation of powers in the Islamist theocracy in Iran. 

Could this lead to a period of even more repression or, on the contrary, an opportunity to finally lead a change in the country? 

It is possible that there will be more repression against the people, as the people are very happy and this common and shared joy can lead to joint actions. Obviously they have already started to take measures to make people more controlled. They have declared 5 days of official mourning, so the university students, for example, have no classes and everything is a bit closed and controlled.  

Nevertheless, it is expected that there will be a reaction from the people and the consequent oppression, as usual on the part of the Islamist theocracy. 

But within the regime there will be no change. There is no indication that the situation will improve in any way for the Iranian people.