Iranian President Raisi’s memorial muted amid public discontent

Mourners carrying a portrait of Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walk in a funeral procession for the late Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage in the northwestern city of Tabriz on May 21, 2024 (ATA DADASHI / MOJ News Agency / AFP)
Mourners carrying a portrait of Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walk in a funeral procession for the late Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and seven members of his entourage in the northwestern city of Tabriz on May 21, 2024 (ATA DADASHI / MOJ News Agency / AFP)

Though state TV says a large crowd appeared in Tabriz today to mourn President Ebrahim Raisi after he was killed in a helicopter crash, some insiders see a stark contrast in public grief compared with past commemorations for the deaths of other senior figures.

While Iran proclaimed five days of mourning for Raisi, there was little of the emotional rhetoric that accompanied the death of Qasem Soleimani, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards killed by a US missile in 2020 in Iraq, whose funeral drew huge crowds of mourners, weeping with sorrow and rage.

The death of the president came at a time of deepening crisis between the clerical leadership and society at large over issues from tightening social and political controls to economic hardship. Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and executions.

Widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may also keep many Iranians at home.

Some analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.

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