Ken Blackwell: The UN Should Memorialize the Iranian President’s Victims, Not Raisi Himself

The United Nations has announced that it intends to hold a memorial service on Thursday for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on May 19. The international body already recognized a moment of silence shortly after the news of that death was confirmed, and then lowered their flags to half-mast “as a mark of respect for the passing of His Excellency.”

These formulaic gestures are unlikely to earn much good will from the Iranian regime, which has a long history of openly flouting international law and denying the UN’s authority. Conversely, the implied praise for Raisi’s legacy is sure to be received as an insult by the vast majority of the Iranian people.

Although the Iranian regime and its state media have been making every effort to promote an image of widespread public grief over Raisi’s death, the reality is that many Iranians greeted the news with celebratory dancing, fireworks, and the exchange of sweets. The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement explaining:

“The curse of mothers and those seeking justice for the executed, along with the damnation of the Iranian people and history, mark the legacy of Ebrahim Raisi, the notorious perpetrator of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.”

That year, Raisi was appointed to serve on one of the “death commissions” that were tasked with implementing a fatwa from then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, which declared that organized opposition to the theocratic system was an example of “enmity against God”. Focusing on members of the country’s leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, Raisi and his colleagues interrogated political prisoners for a couple of minutes before sending them to the gallows.

In the course of about three months, an estimated 30,000 people were put to death in this fashion, and when all was said and done, Raisi was arguably responsible for the greatest portion of that death toll. This perception earned him the title “the butcher of Tehran”, and prompted warnings about the impact that would likely have on the Islamic Republic’s already abysmal human rights record when he ascended to the head of the judiciary in 2019, then to the presidency in 2021.

Those warnings were swiftly borne out, as Raisi played a major role in the crackdown on a November 2019 uprising, which killed 1,500 people, and in another crackdown on the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests which began in September 2022. Upwards of 750 people were killed at the height of that uprising, and another 30,000 were arrested. Dozens of the ensuing court cases have resulted in death sentences, and nine people have been executed so far in connection with the protests.

But even this represents only a small fraction of the brutal legacy Raisi left behind with the sudden end of his three-year tenure as president. In the period of roughly one-month preceding his death, approximately 100 Iranian prisoners were executed for a range of charges, most of them falling well short of international standards for the “most serious crimes”. This potentially put the country on course to exceed the previous year’s total of more than 850 executions, which marked an eight-year high and firmly reinforced Iran’s reputation as the world’s second most prolific executioner after China.

Several different human rights groups have recognized Iran’s long-term surge of executions as part of a broader effort to suppress dissent through public intimidation. This is very much in keeping with Raisi’s legacy as a functionary of the clerical regime since its very inception in 1979. It is difficult to quantify exactly how many deaths he is personally responsible for, and even more difficult to quantify how many lives and bodies he irreparably scarred throughout his career. But whatever the specifics, it is those victims who deserve international recognition this week, not him.

If the United Nations feels compelled to formally recognize Raisi’s death, that is how it should do so: by calling attention to his crimes against humanity and memorializing those who have died at the hands of the institutions and the administration he led. But if the UN chooses instead to go ahead with its planned show of respect for the butcher of Tehran, then every member state with due respect for human rights should see fit to boycott the ceremony out of respect for his victims, their compatriots, and everyone who has defied the regime’s recent crackdowns to demand a free, democratic future for Iran.

Photo credit: By Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, Link

Ken Blackwell is the former United States Ambassador to United Nation Human Rights Commission.

The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Black Community News.

Check Also

Larry Elder: California — Where Common Sense Goes To Die

The circus came to California a long time ago, and there are no signs it’s …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *