Iran's Ebrahim Raisi — an uncompromising president

Raisi had complete support for the country's nuclear programme and other decisions from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

By
Reuters
Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi. — Iranian Embassy

Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, who died aged 63, had risen through the Islamic Republic's theocracy from a hardline prosecutor to an uncompromising president.

Raisi was born in 1960 to a religious family in Mashhad. At age five, he lost his father. Still, he followed in his footsteps to become a cleric.

As a young student at a religious seminary in the holy city of Qom, Raisi took part in protests in the 1979 revolution. Later, his contacts with religious leaders in Qom made him a trusted figure in the judiciary.

During his regime, the Iranian president oversaw protests at home and pushed hard during a dialogue on the country's nuclear programme with the world powers.

Raisi died after a helicopter carrying him and Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian as well as other top officials crashed in the country's East Azerbaijan province when returning after attending an inauguration ceremony of a dam on Iran’s border with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

He was elected to power in 2021 and maintained a tough stance in the nuclear negotiations, seeking to soften curbs on Iran's increasingly advanced technology and relief from sanctions imposed on the country by the United States.

Indirect talks between Tehran and US President Joe Biden's administration to revive the deal have stalled.

Just a year after his election, he ordered tighter enforcement of Iran's "hijab and chastity law".

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi looks on during a meeting in Minab, Iran, February 2, 2024. — WANA

Raisi, who was a political novice, had complete support for the country's nuclear programme and other decisions from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all major policies under Iran's dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government.

Following Raisi's election, all branches of power came under the control of Khamenei’s loyalists and bolstered the president's chances of one day succeeding him as Supreme Leader.

As a young prosecutor in Tehran, Raisi sat on a panel that oversaw the execution of political prisoners in the capital in 1988, as Iran's eight-year war with Iraq was coming to an end, rights groups say.

He rose through the ranks of clergy and was appointed by Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019. Shortly afterwards, he was also elected deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, the 88-member clerical body responsible for electing the next Supreme Leader.

He also served as deputy head of the judiciary for 10 years before being appointed prosecutor-general in 2014. Seeking the presidency, Raisi lost to the pragmatic Hassan Rouhani in a 2017 election.