Photo Credit: India's Prime Minister's Office
Ebrahim Raisi

Ebrahim Raisi, 64, who served as the eighth president of Iran from 2021 until his death in 2024 died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. According to Mehr News, Raeisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian “were martyred in the helicopter crash,” which suggests that Iranian martyrdom is bestowed on people in high office who die.

A helicopter carrying Raeisi and Abdollahian crashed in a dense forest area in East Azerbaijan, which is a province of Iran adjacent to the State of Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and President Raisi had met on Sunday at the border between their two countries. The two leaders celebrated the commission of the Khudafarin hydroelectric complex and inaugurated the Giz Galasi hydroelectric complex on the Araz River.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi just hours before the latter died in a helicopter crash, May 19, 2024. / Azerbaijan’s news agency

After hours of search operations, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society Pirhossein Kolivand said that the location of the crashed helicopter carrying President Raeisi had been spotted, and there was no sign of surviving passengers. Red Crescent search and rescue teams reached the crash site of the helicopter carrying Raeisi on Monday morning.

Ebrahim Raisi’s career was marred by allegations of grave human rights violations and complicity in crimes against humanity. Forgoing formal education, he joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and later the judiciary as an ambitious prosecutor. Raisi was one of four members of the infamous “Death Commission” that oversaw the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners, primarily supporters of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, a political-militant organization that advocates overthrowing the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2019, as Iran’s Chief Justice, he presided over a harsh crackdown on nationwide protests. Security forces were granted impunity for unlawfully killing hundreds of civilians, including women and children, and subjecting thousands more to mass arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, and other abuses, all under Raisi’s leadership.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and his Iranian counterpart Abdollahian met on December 15, 2023, to discuss the reopening of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran, after the Iranian authorities had sentenced to death the person who waged a terror attack against the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran on International Holocaust Memorial Day in 2022, which resulted in the death of a security guard and the injury of two Azerbaijani diplomats.

In March, Azerbaijan purchased the Sky Dew high-altitude aerostat from Israel, equipped with a state-of-the-art long-range missile and aircraft detection system. The majority Shiite Azerbaijan maintains a good relationship with Israel and buys much of its military equipment from the Jewish State, something the Iranians are finding difficult to tolerate. Also, in March 2012, Foreign Policy reported that the Israeli Air Force is using Azerbaijan’s Sitalchay airbase, located 500 km from the Iranian border, ready to launch air strikes from there against Iran’s nuclear sites.


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