Published: 09:27, May 22, 2024
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Iranians mourn late president
By Jan Yumul, Mike Gu in Hong Kong and Yang Ran in Beijing

Farewell services to include funeral and burial ceremony for Raisi on Thursday

Soldiers carry the flag-draped casket of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19, 2024, during a funeral ceremony on Tuesday at Mehrabad Airport in Teheran. Raisi's casket, together with those of seven members of his entourage, arrived in Teheran from Tabriz in northwestern Iran's East Azerbaijan Province, where the crash happened. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

Massive crowds filled the main square of Tabriz in northwestern Iran as well as mosques in Teheran and elsewhere on Tuesday as Iranians prayed for and held funeral ceremonies for President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who were killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian are credited with resounding achievements in foreign relations that are likely to continue even after the new presidential election that is scheduled next month, according to analysts.

READ MORE: Xi sends condolences over Raisi's death

Following mourning announcements by Iranian authorities tasked with arranging the services, funeral ceremonies for those who died in the crash were first conducted in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan Province, on Tuesday morning, the second day of the five-day national period of mourning.

Huge processions of mourners were seen in online videos posted by Iran's Tasnim News Agency. Using their mobile phones, some mourners recorded their glimpses of the fallen leaders' caskets, which were draped in the colors of the Iranian flag.

The mourning services will lead up to a funeral and burial ceremony for Raisi on Thursday in the holy city of Mashhad, his hometown, according to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.

Speaking at the Tabriz ceremony, Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said that Iran "mourned the death of a beloved, popular and humble president", adding that the nation was also saddened by the death of a foreign minister "who left active diplomacy in the critical moments of the resistance as his legacy".

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy Mehdi Safari on Tuesday in Astana, Kazakhstan, and again expressed his condolences over the deaths of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian.

Wang and Safari were in Astana for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's foreign ministers' meeting.

No matter how the situation changes, China will as always strengthen strategic cooperation with Iran, safeguard the common interests of both sides and continue to make efforts for regional and world peace, Wang said.

Safari emphasized that Iran's domestic and foreign policies will not change.

Teheran attaches great importance to its relationship with Beijing and is committed to strengthening bilateral cooperation in various areas including politics, the economy and culture, Safari said.

Ali Khansari, an international affairs analyst at Allameh Tabataba'i University in Teheran, said that Iran has come together despite the political and ideological differences of political parties, journalists, university professors and "even ordinary people".

"In their eyes, this tragedy is very bad and sad," Khansari said.

Mehran Kamrava, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Qatar, said that Raisi "did have measurable successes" when it came to his foreign policy, and did so on "two fronts" in particular — in improving relations with Iran's neighbors as well as with Russia, India and China.

During Raisi's time in office, Iran made strides in its relationship with its regional and Asian neighbors, including its acceptance into BRICS in August, with official membership beginning on Jan 1. In addition, Iran gained full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July.

Carlos Martinez, a British political commentator, said, "Ebrahim Raisi fought with honor in the struggle against imperialism, for sovereignty, for peace and multipolarity."

Martinez said that Raisi's legacy includes resolute support for Palestinian liberation, Iran's membership in BRICS and the SCO, a significant deepening of Iran-China relations, and a total refusal to succumb to the West's bullying and intimidation. Raisi also rejected speculation that only through rapprochement amid sanctions from the West could Iran achieve its economic success, Martinez added.

Iran will hold a presidential election on June 28, according to a statement by the agency headed by acting president Mohammad Mokhber.

Registration of candidates will be carried out from May 30 to June 3, with the campaign period taking place between June 12 and 27, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Niu Xinchun, executive director of the China-Arab Research Institute at Ningxia University, said Iran's procedures for power transition are clear and well-defined.

ALSO READ: Iran to hold presidential election on June 28

Niu said he believes that the overall situation in Iran remains stable and that Raisi's death will have a limited influence on the Palestine-Israel conflict and regional dynamics, as the ultimate decision-maker in Iran's domestic and foreign affairs is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Shu Meng, an assistant professor at Shanghai International Studies University's Middle East Studies Institute, said that because Raisi had been viewed as a potential successor to Ali Khamenei, the tragedy leaves Iran without a clear candidate for successor, possibly forcing a future power structure readjustment.

Also on Tuesday, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani was elected as the new chairman of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a legislative body responsible for appointing Iran's supreme leader and supervising his activities, IRNA reported.

Chen Weihua in Brussels and Zhou Jin in Beijing contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at jan@chinadailyapac.com