Iranian Nobel laureate outraged by UN tribute meeting for Raisi

Former Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash on 19 May [Anna Moneymaker/Getty-archive]

An Iranian activist has hit out ahead of a UN General Assembly meeting convened to pay tribute to Iran’s former president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on 19 May.

The meeting will take place in New York this Thursday, General Assembly President Dennis Francis said in a letter to UN member states last week.

Francis’s spokesperson Monica Grayley said on Friday that this was “as per the [General Assembly’s] practice ‘to pay tribute to the memory of a deceased national leader who was the sitting head of state at the time of death'”.

But jailed Iranian human rights activist and Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi said in a letter written smuggled out of her cell: “When the governments of the world elevate a blatant human rights violator and butcher from Iran’s history to a position of honour, as if mourning a peace-loving and democratic figure, they set a dangerous precedent.

“This emboldens dictators, oppressors, torturers and executers worldwide,” the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize winner added in her Monday letter from Tehran’s notorious Evin jail, which was posted to Instagram.

“They see and are assured that upon their deaths, the UN flag will be at half-mast, and global politicians and statesmen will offer condolences, while the voices of helpless and oppressed protesters are stifled by the barriers of ‘diplomatic relations’ and ‘state precedents’.

“By opening its doors to commemorate Raisi, the United Nations is effectively shutting the already fragile doors on its human rights foundations, a decision I deeply regret.”

Raisi died in a helicopter crash aged 63, alongside Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other high-ranking officials.

The late president was part of a committee in 1988 that Amnesty International said “carried out the ongoing enforced disappearance and extrajudical executions of several thousand political dissidents” in Evin and another prison in Alborz province over a period of several weeks.

During his time as president, Iran cracked down on protests following the death in custody of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa (Jina) Amini.

Over 500 people were reportedly killed during the large-scale demonstrations, with many participants sentenced to death and executed.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Guterres, told The New Arab the UN secretary-general does not call General Assembly meetings and has no authority over the body.

“The secretary-general, through his reports on human rights in Iran, through the words that he said himself, through what I’ve said here, has never been shy about expressing his deep concerns about the human rights situation in Iran, notably on the issues of women,” Dujarric told a press briefing last week.

“Those words are very clear. They’re in black and white, and they stand. It does not stop him from expressing condolences when the head of state of a member state of this organisation, and a foreign minister, with whom he met regularly, who was here in New York a few weeks ago, dies in a helicopter crash.”

Dujarri directed this news outlet to contact Grayley, spokesperson for General Assembly President Francis.

Grayley reiterated to The New Arab that a memorial event is a “practice by the General Assembly to hold a plenary meeting to pay tribute to the memory of the deceased head of state”.

“You may recall, that the last time it took place this year was in February, when the former President of Namibia, H.E. Mr. Hage Geingob passed away,” she added.

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