While the Islamic Republic regime in Iran has been surrounded by growing crises inside the country and abroad, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei did whatever he could to appoint Ebrahim Raisi as President. Regarding the new President’s bloody background in horrible human rights violations, including the murderer of thousands of political prisoners in Tehran, Khamenei indeed counted on Raisi as a salvager for his state.
Observers believe that Khamenei officially selected Raisi as President; however, the Supreme Leader pursued another goal: introducing the ‘Butcher of Tehran’ as his’ heir apparent.’ Notably, in 1989 when the Islamic Republic founder and first Supreme Leader died, Khamenei was the regime’s President.
Nevertheless, following his endorsement by Khamenei on August 3, Raisi attended in the Parliament (Majlis) today to swear in an official inauguration ceremony. Under the ayatollahs’ ruling, this is a meaningless event given they had frankly announced that they never recognize people’s votes as a sign of legitimacy. They believe that the Supreme Leader’s endorsement is everything.
However, in response to public and international hatred against the ‘Butcher of Tehran,’ authorities have invited several officials from different countries to downplay Raisi’s harrowing history. And unfortunately, appeasement advocates traveled to Tehran contrary to their principles and humanitarian claims.
Ebrahim Raisi’s Background
Raisi was born in the holy city of Mashhad, the capital of the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan, in December 1960. In sixth grade, he abandoned classic education and entered a seminary, which promoted him as a trustee among Khomeini’s inner circle.
Following the 1979 anti-monarchic revolution in Iran and taking power by Khomeini and his allies, Raisi became a ‘judicial authority.’ Thanks to his loyalty to the newborn fascism, he soon became the prosecutor for the cities of Karaj and Hamedan at the age of 20. This is while the cities are more than 300 km away from each other.
His merciless treatment of dissidents promoted him to Tehran Deputy Prosecutor in 1985. At the time, Raisi, alongside then-warden of Evin Prison Assadollah Lajevardi, committed enormous crimes against political prisoners.
However, he is known as the ‘Butcher of Tehran’ for his role in purging Tehran’s prisons from political prisoners. According to a fatwa issued by Khomeini, Raisi along with then Tehran Prosecutor Morteza Eshraghi, then Sharia Judge Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) representative Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, was the main elements of the ‘Death Commission,’ which sent thousands of political prisoners to the gallows within kangaroo trials.
In 1988 over 30,000 political prisoners were executed in #Iran. The fate of over 30,000 political prisoners was decided in a 231 words fatwa. The victims of the fatwa were the members and supporters of the Mujahedin-e Khalq or #MEK#ProsecuteRaisiNowhttps://t.co/jkfSRNFdPZ pic.twitter.com/gyo2TbbcPC
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 3, 2021
At the time, Khomeini’s heir apparent Hossein-Ali Montazeri tried to stop the crime. He described the 1988 massacre as the worst crime in the Islamic Republic’s history. “History will never forget us, and you will recall as historic criminals,” Montazeri told the members of Tehran’s death commission based on an audiotape leaked by his son in August 2016.
In response, Raisi’s voice is heard, insisting on the execution of 200 more prisoners until the holy month of Muharram while other members of the death commission cheer him.
According to survivors, authorities mass murdered over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly affiliated with the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI). Khomeini clearly mentioned MEK members in his fatwa and ordered his appointees to annihilate the ‘enemies of Islam’ immediately.
In recent months, seven UN special rapporteurs and more than 150 former UN officials, jurists, and human rights advocates described the extrajudicial executions of political prisoners in 1988 as a crime against humanity. They called for an investigation into the case and holding the massacre’s perpetrators accountable.
Afterward, in 1989, Raisi was appointed as Tehran Prosecutor. During his tenure as the prosecutor of Tehran, Raisi issued enormous inhuman sentences, including amputation, lapidation, and falling. “The sentence of hand amputation is among our pride,” Aftab daily quoted him as saying in 2010.
In May 1992, to quell protests in Mashhad, then-Judiciary Chief Mohammad Yazdi dispatched Raisi to his hometown. He mercilessly cracked down on citizens, who had been flooded onto the streets to protest systematic corruption and plundering policies.
Then in 1994, he was promoted to the head of the General Inspection Organization and kept the post for ten years. In 2004, he was appointed as the First Deputy Judiciary Chief, and ten years later, he became the Attorney-General of the Islamic Republic regime.
As one of Khamenei’s trustees, Khamenei picked him as the head of the wealthy endowment organization of ‘Astan-e Quds Razavi’ in 2016. The Astan-e Quds Razavi is the largest endowment organization in Islam’s world, which is considered the longest-lasting organization since the martyrdom of Imam Reza, the eighth Shiite Imam, about 1,200 years ago.
#EbrahimRaisi's name is synonymous with awful crimes against humanity.
Will the west still appease such a criminal? pic.twitter.com/2uvKRPNkVx
— Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) August 5, 2021
At the time, Raisi significantly funded the regime’s aggressive policies in the Middle East and exploited the people’s endowment to supply extremist groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah, which are affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
In the 2017 Presidential debate, Hassan Rouhani, his ‘reformist’ rival, described him as someone who only knows execution and prison. “Our people will once again declare that they do not want those who only know execution and prison in the past 38 years,” Rouhani addressed Raisi in his remarks in Hamedan city in May 2017.
In March 2019, Raisi was appointed as Judiciary Chief and personally upheld the death sentences of more than 1,000 inmates. He also played a leading role in the bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters in November 2019.
Regarding his notorious record as a human rights abuser, Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, tweeted, “Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”
In 2018, @amnesty documented how Ebrahim Raisi had been a member of the ‘death commission’ which forcibly disappeared and extrajudicially executed in secret thousands of political dissidents in Evin and Gohardasht prisons near Tehran in 1988.
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) June 19, 2021
On the other hand, Raisi does not have any political background. As a judicial authority, he only served the regime in the oppressive apparatuses. In this respect, observers believe that Khamenei did whatever it took to appoint Raisi as the President to counter the regime’s dire situation.
Indeed, Raisi has taken office to establish a government of terror and fear to nip potential protests in the bud. However, the increase in recent demonstrations leading up to his inauguration ceremony showed that the people, who have nothing to lose, would continue and intensify anti-establishment protests and activities to gain their fundamental rights.