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Ebrahim Raisi (1960-2024): From cleric to president

Ebrahim Raisi, the President of Iran, passed away on May 20, 2024, at the age of 63 in a tragic helicopter crash in northwestern Iran. The crash also claimed the lives of several other high-ranking officials, including Iran’s foreign minister.

Born on December 14, 1960, in Mashhad, Iran, Raisi began his career as a cleric, rising steadily through the ranks of Iran’s political and judicial systems. His first presidential bid in 2017 was unsuccessful, as he lost to the relatively moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani. However, in 2021, Raisi won the presidential election, succeeding Rouhani and marking a significant shift towards a hard-line conservative administration.

Raisi’s presidency was characterized by a commitment to conservative values and alignment with Iran’s hard-line factions. His administration faced significant domestic challenges, including severe economic struggles such as inflation, unemployment, and the impact of international sanctions. Despite his efforts, these issues remained persistent throughout his tenure.

Raisi’s human rights record was a focal point of controversy. Accusations of his involvement in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s and his tenure as head of the judiciary raised serious concerns both domestically and internationally about human rights abuses.

On the international front, Raisi aimed to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, but negotiations stalled during his presidency. The 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained for not wearing a hijab, sparked mass protests and a severe security crackdown, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of detentions.

Raisi’s foreign policy tenure was marked by regional tensions, notably during the 2023 Israel-Hamas conflict, where Iran’s support for Hamas drew international scrutiny. Relations with the United States remained strained, exacerbated by the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal under the Trump administration.

The legacy of Ebrahim Raisi is legacy deeply divisive. Supporters praise his dedication to conservative principles and his leadership in a challenging political climate, while critics point to his human rights record and authoritarian governance. His death marks the end of a contentious yet pivotal era in Iran’s politics.

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