Raisi, the radical leader who will become president of Iran

Raisi the radical leader who will become president of Iran
Last updated:

The powerful cleric, accused by NGOs of crimes against humanity, assumes power at a critical moment in the negotiations on the nuclear agreement worldwide.

The victory of Ebrahim Raisi in the presidential elections of Iran breaks with eight years of certain reformism championed by his predecessor, Hasan Rohaní, and represents the return to the Head of Government of the ‘hard line’ represented by the clerical establishment of the country.

Raisi, 60 years old, for now culminates a career completely connected with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 amid rumors that he could one day succeed Khamenei himself as the head of the country’s destiny.

The cleric appears before the public light as a man endowed with an immense heritage and closely related both to religious power and to his military arm, the Revolutionary Guard, which now stands before the scrutiny of the international community at a key moment in the nuclear talks, and with a slab on his past: the accusations about his participation in the extermination of thousands of opponents in the late 1980s.

In fact, Rohani himself, who defeated him in the 2017 elections, dedicated an evening criticism to him in this regard during the campaign: “The people do not trust who has been hanging people for 38 years“.

Raisi has had religion in his blood since his birth in a clergy family in the city of Mashhad. Educated in Qom, he is known as a hojatoleslam, or “authority in Islam,” although some media refer to him directly as ayatollah. His judicial career began as the attorney general of Karaj; A position he held when he was only 20 years old, before moving to the capital Tehran in 1985, where he was appointed deputy prosecutor and later chief prosecutor.

It is at this time that he is related to the most sordid incident of his career: his presence in the so-called “death committee”, a group of officials accused of extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances against, according to Amnesty International estimates, some 5,000 dissidents in the prisons of Evin and Gohardasht, near Tehran, in July of 1988, when it exerted like deputy public prosecutor of the capital.

The executions were committed in the wake of a secret edict issued by the then great leader of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, following an armed incursion into Iran by the Mojahedin People’s Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group based in Iraq and outlawed by the Iranian authorities, according to the report published by Amnesty in 2018.

Raisi has never approached this stage of his life or other acts deeply questioned by NGOs during his rise in the judicial ranks of Iran, which he ended up leading in 2019. That same year, the United States imposed a sanction on him for crimes against Human Rights, specifically for “its administrative supervision over the executions of persons who were minors at the time of committing the crime and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations”, against those convicted for the riots during the 2009 demonstrations.

By then, he had established his economic and religious influence as custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi religious foundation, the largest in the Islamic world, before also serving as vice president of the Assembly of Experts.

During his stay in the Judiciary, Raisi has led an anti-corruption initiative that has been the banner during the campaign, along with his desire to “pursue justice in the country.” Raisi promised to create a “popular government” and a “strong Iran,” while highlighting his humble origins. “I have tasted poverty, I have not only heard of it,” according to one of his campaign posters.

The nuclear unknown

It remains to be seen Raisi’s behavior on the nuclear talks that are taking place in Vienna to achieve the full reactivation of the historic nuclear agreement signed by Iran and the international community in 2015, and which is now going through a critical moment after the withdrawal of the United States. three years later, and the reimposition of sanctions against Tehran.

In a new scenario dominated by the appearance of the new White House led by Joe Biden, who this week has starred in a meeting in conciliatory tones with the Russian president and great Iranian ally, Vladimir Putin, Raisi has assured during the campaign that he will support the negotiations, although for him they will not be a priority issue.

According to statements collected by the official IRNA news agency, Raisi’s campaign spokesperson, Alireza Afshar, assured last week that the then-candidate believes in the need to continue with these conversations, although he understands them as “a marginal issue that does not it must be associated with the problems that the country is going through or with other state affairs”.

However, Raisi “will act within the framework of the system’s policies and the provisions of foreign policies, with an emphasis on diplomacy.”