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Iranian citizens see no change after Raisi’s death

'One of them goes, another one comes': Iranian citizens see no change after Raisi’s death
MENA
5 min read
"Raisi was a cleric like all the others who have destroyed our lives. Why should I be sad about his death?" a 38-year-old engineer who lives in Iran told TNA.
Based on Iran's constitution, Raisi's vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will be the interim president and must organise the election to choose the next president within 50 days. [Getty}

On Sunday, for the first time since 1989, in Iran's post-revolution history, the establishment used all communication platforms to urge Iranians to pray for the health of its high-ranking officials. The last time this happened was days before the country's then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was announced dead.

This time, it was not difficult to guess that former president Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister, Hussein Amir Abdullahian, were dead as soon as the prayer sessions were organised in the city's public spaces and over TV and radio channels.

In less than 24 hours, the Iranian establishment officially announced Raisi's death during a very critical time for Iran, both domestically and internationally.

At the international level, Tehran had just defused tensions with Tel Aviv after a series of tit-for-tat attacks in April that put the two arch-enemies in a situation of direct military confrontation. At the same time, Iran is one of the main supporters of Hamas in the war in Gaza, and its military allies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen play a vital role in operations against Israel and US bases in the region.

Under these conditions, any disruption in the country's foreign policy could give an upper hand over to Tehran's regional rivals and international enemies in the so-called West.

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Public distrust and political intrigue

Meanwhile, along the domestic level, the Iranian establishment has experienced its worst public support since the 1979 revolution. The alarm about this problem rang during the latest parliamentary election, which had a record-low turnout of 41 per cent.

The establishment's lack of public support became more evident in social media posts where the family members of the protesters killed in recent years by the security forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) expressed their happiness about the president's death.

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian Nobel laureate and human rights lawyer, also mentioned this in an Instagram post: "The case of another criminal against humanity in the Islamic Republic was closed without trial in court and accountability for the crimes. Although Ebrahim Raisi did not get a fair trial, his death brought a lot of happiness to the people!"

Other Iranians with whom The New Arab spoke shared the same sentiment.

"Raisi was a cleric like all the others who have destroyed our lives. Why should I be sad about his death?" a 38-year-old engineer who lives in Iran told TNA.

"People like him in the establishment are responsible for the killing of dissidents and executing protesters. They also left us in these harsh economic conditions while they themselves have a comfortable life, and their children live in other countries," added the engineer.

This conflict between the establishment and the citizens was also highlighted by local media, despite warnings from the country's judicial system about how the media should cover the incident.

On Monday, the front page of the pro-reformist Ham Mihan daily stressed concerns about this issue, raising the question of how the establishment would meet the citizens' demands.

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"These tragic incidents happen, and there is no escaping from them. The strength of the internal political structure shows whether we are able to move towards unity and return to the people, or we will move in another direction," wrote the daily.

Meanwhile, the citizens' severe distrust for the establishment has fueled rumours among Iranians, suggesting the helicopter crash happened to get rid of Raisi, something done by his rival conservatives at a time when speculations about who will be the supreme leader's successor are heated.

A Tehran resident who spoke with TNA on the condition of anonymity highlighted this idea, saying: "You never know what's going on behind the curtains, and the IRGC is capable of doing anything if its benefits are threatened. So why should they hesitate to plot a deadly accident for Raisi now that all factions are fighting over Khamenei's succession?"

"Now that Raisi perished, Khamenei's son is the only person seriously being considered as the next supreme leader," he added.

Discussions about Khamenei's successor have been at the centre of political debate in Iran since the 1 March election of the Assembly of Experts, who are responsible for appointing the country's supreme leader.

What comes next

Before discussing the next supreme leader, Iran first needs to elect a new president. Raisi, who many analysts labelled as a puppet president following the supreme leader's orders, was elected in the 2021 elections with the lowest presidential election turnout in Iran's post-revolution history.

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Turnout dropped even further after his election, as the country witnessed the 2022 nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody. The crack between the establishment and the citizens deepened due to the brutal crackdown on the protests, which left over 500 people killed.

The establishment has proven that it is not ashamed of low turnouts, but the question is, who will succeed Raisi? It is likely someone as obedient to the office of the Supreme Leader and the IRGC commanders.

Based on Iran's constitution, Raisi's vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will be the interim president and must organise the election to choose the next president within 50 days. During that time, the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mohsen Ejhei, and the parliament speaker will join Mokhber in a three-person council to organise the election.

Mokhber is also a trustee of Iran's supreme leader. Before being appointed as Iran's vice president, he was the head of Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam, one of the country's most powerful economic entities, which the Supreme Leader directly led.

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The other members of the three-person council organising the upcoming presidential election also have close ties to the Supreme Leader,  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He directly appoints the head of the judiciary, and the parliament speaker is vetted through several phases and elected by MPs close to the leader.

This structure has not left many Iranians hopeful that a new presidential election will make their lives easier under the rule of a military theocracy.

Another Iranian who spoke to TNA anonymously expressed this hopelessness, saying, "There is no difference. One of them goes, another one of them comes, so nothing will change."

"The actual change would happen if we had a real democracy, where people could vote for the candidate of their own choice, not for candidates handpicked from those loyal to the establishment," he concluded.

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The New Arab Staff & Agencies