On the 5th of August, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi formally assumed the office of President of Iran.
The long-time regime insider, who until recently headed the entire Iranian judicial apparatus, was elected president in June after the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei unilaterally disqualified the vast majority of Raisi’s opposition from the ballot.
Raisi is known throughout Iran as one of the most sinister characters in the regime today. His participation in the government’s atrocities goes back decades.
Raisi became part and parcel of the Ayatollah government shortly following its inception. After participating in the 1979 Revolution in 1979, the young Ebrahim Raisi was recruited by close aides to the newly installed head of state, Ruhollah Khomeini.
While still in his early 20s, Raisi was appointed to prestigious judicial positions throughout the country. These positions consisted at first of municipal level prosecutor roles, but quickly turned into major posts in Iran’s judiciary system. By the late 1980’s Raisi, still a young man, became the assistant prosecutor for the country’s capital Tehran.
Throughout this period, the future president gained ample experience trying cases for the thousands of Iran’s political prisoners, which included the liberal and left-wing faction members who opposed the new regime.
This period culminated in what is Raisi’s most infamous atrocity, his participation in the so-called 1988 Massacre. At the height of the Iran-Iraq War, Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the mass execution of thousands of men and women imprisoned throughout the country, nearly all of whom had been arrested for their involvement in anti-regime organizations.
Ebrahim Raisi, at this time still working in Tehran’s prosecutor’s office, sat on the four man panel that issued the execution orders.
But Raisi’s crimes go far beyond heading kangaroo courts to dispense with the opposition.
Throughout his career, the Iranian president has demonstrated time and time again, he has no qualms with meeting out state violence against anyone deemed a threat to the regime–even if those people happen to be children.
Raisi’s execution of children goes back at least to his involvement with the 1988 Massacre. As a recent letter from U.S. lawmakers to President Joe Biden laid out, the ‘death panel’ on which Raisi sat oversaw the deaths of numerous minors. Some of the individuals executed by Raisi and his colleagues were as young as fifteen years old.
That period of Raisi’s career was just the beginning. During the three decades since, Raisi has held several senior positions in Iran’s judiciary branch, including head of the General Inspection Office, and then later that of Chief Justice, a position he occupied until becoming president earlier this month. During this long time at the helm, Raisi oversaw some of the most brutal crackdowns on Iranians ever experienced by the population.
Shortly after Raisi’s presidential victory, Amnesty International published an official call to have the president elect investigated for human rights violations that spanned some thirty years. “As Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi has presided over a spiralling crackdown on human rights which has seen hundreds of peaceful dissidents, human rights defenders and members of persecuted minority groups arbitrarily detained” wrote Amnesty.
Under Raisi’s watch, the judiciary branch granted “blanket impunity” to government officials, military and other members of the security apparatus responsible for unlawfully killing of protestors. This trend reached its peak during the 2019 protest movement which saw mass anti-government demonstrations across Iran’s major cities.
Under Raisi’s directive, thousands of men, women, and children were arrested in mass round-ups, and many subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and other harassing and violent treatment.
The reports by Amnesty and others have been backed up by United Nations data. On-the-ground observers recorded the unbridled brutality Raisi allowed to be inflicted on young people throughout the country. The U.N.’s Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that it has information on the killing of at least 12 children during the regime crackdown.
They include 15-year-old Mohammad Dastankhah, who was shot in the heart in Shiraz, Fars province, as he passed by the protests on his way home from school, and 17-year-old Alireza Nouri, who was killed in Shahriar near Tehran.
Raisi’s long career in the regime is nothing less than a history of cruelty and unchecked violence. Now that Ebrahim has officially assumed presidential power, it is crucial world leaders remember who it is that heads the Iranian government.
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