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The Sudden Death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi: 

What It Does and Doesn’t Mean for the People of Iran

On May 19, a helicopter carrying Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and seven others crashed over the mountains in Northern Iran, leaving no survivors. In the imperialist-dominated world of intrigues between and within reactionary regimes, there are many rumors, speculations, conspiracy theories and calls for investigations. Clarity on the exact circumstances may or may not emerge in the days ahead even as various class forces are issuing statements. But so far, the evidence and reportage by major media in and outside Iran point to this as a result of “foul weather and not foul play.” The more important question is how this may impact the future for the people of Iran, the region and the world. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) immediately ordered an extended period of five days of national mourning for Raisi to shore up national unity among their social base, and legitimacy for their oppressive rule. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians turned out for mass mourning ceremonies. The regime also threatened and unjustly arrested people for celebratory social media posts about the incident. It is reported that some Iranians set off fireworks, danced, sang or otherwise expressed joy as soon as the news of Raisi’s death was announced—demonstrating their anger at what Raisi and this regime has done to the people. News outlets reported many condolences were being offered by various governments, including NATO, the European Union, China, Russia, and also by the administration of Genocide Joe Biden. The United Nations Security Council held a moment of silence in honor of Raisi, who was, in fact, one of their own leading oppressors, even if a rival on the world stage of big and small gangsters.

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Raisi was a fitting leader of Iran’s woman-hating theocratic-capitalist system based on Sharia law. Sharia law is a literal, fanatical religious rule rooted in Islamic scriptures of the Quran (written in 600 CE). Raisi was popularly known as “the butcher of Tehran.” As human rights group Amnesty International summarized in its May 22, 2024 bulletin: 

Ebrahim Raisi, who at the age of 20 was appointed as Prosecutor General … in 1980, quickly rose through the ranks to assume various senior judicial executive positions, before becoming president in 2021…. Ebrahim Raisi was a member of the “death commission” which carried out the ongoing enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions of several thousand political dissidents … between late July and early September 1988.

Raisi’s direct role in the massacre of political prisoners in 1988 is a well-known crime. This is well documented by eyewitness accounts, as well as in films such as The Secret Fatwa and in books such as Voices of a Massacre. Over the decades in his role as part of Iran’s mullah ruling class, he also was in position to oversee the brutal enforcement of its forced hijab (headscarf) laws on women, and the imprisonment, torture, and executions of its opponents.

What Raisi’s Death Means… and Doesn’t Mean

Excerpts from a statement by the Communist Party of Iran, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist helps to frame the understanding of the challenges posed by this event posted at (ed.—translation by revcom volunteers):

The deaths of Ebrahim Raisi, the executioner and Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the executive arm of the Islamic Republic's belligerent foreign policy, may have many ambiguous strains that will have to wait for clarity to be clearer. However, the important point is that these two criminals did not survive to answer their crimes in a fair trial, but the Islamic Republic is standing and its overthrow is a long way ahead of the people.

He was the judge of death, but death and crime are the profession of the Islamic Republic. The crime of killing communist and leftist fighters and the PMOI [Peoples Mojahedin Organization of Iran] in the 1980s, the murder of our youth in political and non-political executions, the suppression and existence of political prisoners, crimes against women and assaulting women when arrested, chemical attacks on schools, poverty, environmental destruction, crimes against the people of the region, mass murder and execution of Baloch and Kurdish [minority nationality] youths, etc. These are the disgraceful record of this system and our indictment against this system and all its agents, and at the top of it [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Ali Khamenei.

No matter who succeeds Raisi as president, he will follow in Raisi’s footsteps, and it will not bring a better future to the people of Iran…. Raisi was a judge who did not stray, not even an inch, from the character, tradition and the nature of the theocratic capitalist Islamic Republic of Iran. The Islamic Republic must go. The revolutionary overthrow of this government is an urgent necessity that must be taken up by a conscious and determined people, a people aware of the character and principles of the [new] society that will be fundamentally different from what we have experienced over the past forty-five years and earlier, a people determined to overthrow this regime and bring about a new state and a new society. The only way to attain such a society is to achieve victory in a real revolution—meaning a communist revolution—and the establishment of the new socialist republic of Iran. Only that can heal these deep wounds. That and Nothing Less.

In other words, it is critical to confront the need to be rid of an entire system, Iran’s ruling structure and its foundation under the brutal economic, political and social system based on exploitation and oppression, especially of women, through the most radical, and thorough going revolution in human history. This is a much harder but also much more liberating event to celebrate. The challenge is posed as to what is the future of Iran, the Middle East region, and the world as a whole. Raisi’s death does not fundamentally change the big picture—and the big demand—for the people to “bring forward another way” for Iran that is out of the hell of the Islamic fundamentalist regime AND out of imperialist domination, be it by the U.S. (again), China or Russia. 

Bringing Forward Another Way, by Bob Avakian


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