Thousands turn out as funeral procession begins for Iranian president

A picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is seen on a street in Tehran in Iran on Tuesday evening. Photo by Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA/UPI
1 of 8 | A picture of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is seen on a street in Tehran in Iran on Tuesday evening. Photo by Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA/UPI | License Photo

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, May 21 (UPI) -- Funeral events for Iran's president and foreign minister got underway Tuesday with a procession on the streets of the northwestern city of Tabriz as investigators launched a probe into the helicopter crash that killed them.

President Ebrahim Raisi was killed Sunday in the crash in mountainous terrain near the Azerbaijan border along with eight other people, including Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian.


Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Tabriz, the closest large city to the site of the crash, to kick off a three-day funeral for the 63-year-old hardline cleric who had been seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Khamenei announced five days of mourning for the fallen president.

Iran's official IRNA news agency showed footage of black-clad mourners surrounding a truck carrying the flag-draped coffins of Raisi and the other victims.


Interior Minister Ahmad Vahdidi spoke at a ceremony before the procession, state-owned Mers news agency reported, saying the country mourned the death of a "beloved, popular and humble president."

"We had a bad landing in this matter, but we will have a brilliant rise," Vahidi said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the bodies of the victims will be moved to Qom, a pilgrimage site and holy city for Shiite Muslims, and then on to Tehran in the evening.

Public prayers and a procession will be held in Tehran on Wednesday, which has been declared a public holiday. Foreign dignitaries will be on hand for a ceremony honoring the victims in the afternoon, according to IRNA, although a list of attendees has not yet been released.

Raisi's funeral and burial will take place on Thursday in his home city of Mashhad.

State media has said the crash of the decades-old Bell 212 helicopter was due to "technical failure," while the Iranian military announced that it had launched an investigation and sent a team to the site.

Most of the Iranian military's helicopters date to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and international sanctions make it difficult for the government to acquire parts for them.


Raisi was known by his critics as the Butcher of Tehran for his involvement in Iran's mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The conservative cleric led Iran since winning office in a 2021 election marked by a record-low voter turnout.

During his tenure, Raisi oversaw a brutal crackdown on dissent that included the September 2022 police killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being beaten by authorities over violating the country's draconian hijab laws.

His death comes during a fraught period of domestic discontent and regional tensions. Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will serve as Iran's interim leader until an election, set for June 28, is held.

Several world leaders sent condolences to Iran, including authoritarian partners such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

Putin called Raisi a "true friend of Russia," while Kim praised him as "an outstanding statesman and a close friend" in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The United States, meanwhile, offered terse "official condolences" while expressing "support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms."


Latest Headlines