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May 30, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1768

Rejoicing In Iran Over President Raisi's Death In Helicopter Crash

May 30, 2024 | By N. Katirachi and A. Savyon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1768

Introduction

Following the announcement of the deaths of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on May 19, 2024, many Western countries expressed their condolences. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi, and senior EU officials went out of their way to express condolences over Raisi's death and honor the man the Iranian public calls "the Executioner of Tehran."[1]

Raisi was known as the "Executioner of Tehran" for his involvement in the execution of thousands of Iranian oppositionists in 1988, when he was Tehran deputy prosecutor and a member of what was widely known as the "Death Commission." After that, as a senior official in the Iranian judiciary, he oversaw the repression of Iranian citizens, and, as president, the violent suppression of the civil protests in October 2022 that followed the death in police custody of the young Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini after she was detained for improper hijab wear. He was also in charge of implementing the harsh hijab enforcement policy for women and teen girls in the country, under which they are routinely beaten, in some cases to death.

In In stark contrast to the messages of condolence and sympathy from Western countries and organizations, social networks in Farsi were flooded with rejoicing. Social media comments, tweets, memes, cartoons, videos, photos and other online content (see below), Iranians expressed their joy at Raisi's death in the helicopter crash. Additionally, hashtags such as #IranIsHappy were trending.


Cartoon showing colorful Iranian citizens celebrating with fireworks, alcohol, and dancing while black-and-white religious scholars – representing the regime – cry. The caption reads: "The death of one religious scholar brought joy to one nation." Source: Twitter.com/Hqkaya, May 28, 2024.

This report will present the rejoicing in Iran and on social media in Farsi at the news of Iranian President Raisi's death in a helicopter crash, in a small sampling of the massive quantity of online content in this vein that is sweeping the Internet. It is only part of the manifestations of joy that have been widely in evidence: fireworks, Iranian exiles dancing in front of Iranian embassies in Western capitals, videos of feasts and champagne parties, and more, with a sense of vengeance on the part of the families of Raisi's victims, including those executed following show trials, victims of his harsh suppression of protests, and victims of his violent enforcement of the hijab. Also expressed are wishes for the deaths of other senior regime officials, headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The Regime's Preparation For Expressions Of Joy

It seems that the regime took advantage of the long hours before officially announcing the president's death in order to boost its forces on the streets of the cities so that there would be no gatherings that could turn into anti-regime protests. Since the regime does not allow anti-regime demonstrations, or any expression of public sentiment about the death of the president, many Iranians are going online to express their views on the demise of the regime official who was directly responsible for the murder of thousands of Iranians – in 2023 alone, the Iranian regime sentenced to death and executed 853 Iranian citizens.

The regime is also gearing up to monitor expressions of joy on social media. Mizan, the news agency of the Iranian judiciary, announced a "purification plan" to address this, as part of which "550 special instances of surveillance were carried out" and "80 websites that posted offensive content about President Raisi's helicopter crash were identified."[2] Many Internet users reported that cases were opened against them, and they were summoned to court after following the publication of content on the subject.[3] Iran's cyber police also announced that it was surveilling the online space, and asked users to "refrain from publishing inciting content" – that is, anything mocking or rejoicing at the death of the president.

The regime-affiliated "Penal Committee" channel on Telegram asked readers to submit documentation of Iranians online mocking Raisi's death so as to "punish those who oppose the revolution." The channel was full of names and actual personal information of thousands of Iranians, submitted in order to intimidate and punish them.[4]


Profile picture and bio of the Penal Committee channel on Telegram. May 23, 2024.  

As usual, the regime claimed that Israel is behind the widespread rejoicing. An article published by the regime-affiliated Tasnim news agency stated: "These are campaigns by the Israeli regime that is trying to divide the Iranian citizens… with the intention of harming their emotional serenity."[5]

The expressions of joy at Raisi's death also included fireworks, dance parties in front of the Iranian embassies in Western capitals, and expressions of joy online include the following.

1. Joy And Biting Ridicule In Iran And Outside It

Many videos showing fireworks in cities across Iran were shared online – even from the religious city of Mashhad, Raisi's birthplace:


Left: Fireworks in Tehran on May 19 (Source: Twitter.com/Iran_News_2023). Right: Fireworks in the religious city of Mashhad, Raisi's birthplace (Source: Twitter.com/QANDILPRESS).


Firworks in Sakaz on May 19. Source: Twitter.com/JTeimasi

Many Iranian expats also came to Iranian embassies throughout the West and held celebrations. Many videos show such celebrations at Iranian diplomatic locations in London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Oslo, Brussels, Hamburg, Copenhagen, the Hague, and other cities. People can be seen dancing to joyful music and waving the flag of the Iranian monarchy. Below are several examples:


Iranian expats celebrate Raisi's death outside the Iranian embassy in London on May 20. Source: Persian Flower on X.

On May 20, an Iranian expat named Hamed Jafrian filmed himself entering the Iranian embassy in London under the pretext of "expressing sadness over Dr. Raisi's death," and upon meeting an embassy worker he expressed that he wishes a similar fate upon Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. An embassy worker expelled Jafrian from the embassy, and Jafrian responded with laughter:


Source: Iranian activist Niak Kourbani on X, May 20, 2024

Saeed Afkari, The Brother Of A Wrestler Who Was Executed By The Iranian Regime: "I Have Not Seen My Mother This Happy"

In a May 20 post on X that had over 500,000 impressions and tens of thousands of likes, journalist Saeed Afkari, who is the brother of Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestler who was executed by the Iranian regime on September 12, 2020, wrote: "Over the past several years, I have not seen my mother this happy."


Source: Twitter.com/afkari_saeed, May 20, 2024

Prominent Hashtags, Memes, And Graphics

When it became known that Raisi's helicopter crashed, online users shared two primary hashtags. The first and most popular of them was "#IranIsHappy", an expression of the nation's joy over the accident, and the second was "#Helikotlet," an amalgamation of the words "helicopter" and "kotlet," which is a kind of ground meat patty, apparently a reference to Raisi's fate in the crash. It should be noted that when IRGC Qods Force Commander General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated in a U.S. airstrike in 2020, some Iranians celebrated by serving similar patties, also in reference to Soleimani's fate.


#IranIsHappy" was mentioned on X 166,000 times in a matter of a few hours after the helicopter crash. Source: X.com, May 23, 2024

X User "Tiger" Shares Image Of Raisi Going Up In Flames On The Backdrop Of The Crash Site

On May 21, 2024, X user "Tiger" shared an image depicting Raisi going up in flames on the backdrop of the helicopter crash site. The post was hashtagged "#IranIsHappy", and the user commented: "As far as the eye can see, the [X] timeline is full of celebration and joy over the death of the Executioner [of Tehran, one of Raisi's nicknames]."


Source: Twitter.com/Tanhayektiger, May 21, 2024.

Meme Shared By Iranian Activist Amin Pouria Mocks Raisi's Shrouded Corpse

On May 21, 2024, Iranian activist Amin Pouria shared a meme that became popular on social media, mocking the visual similarity between Raisi's shrouded corpse and an ice cream cone. The photo bears the logo of the Iranian ice cream brand Meyhan, and Pouria commented: "This is excellent." The post is hashtagged in Farsi "Poverty, Corruption, and High Cost [of Living]" and "Mahsa Amini."


Source: Twitter.com/mamadporii, May 21, 2024.

Since Iran does not have public spaces in which citizens can freely express themselves, due to the Iranian regime's suppression of any practice freedom of expression, many Iranians turn to the comment sections on the social media pages of Iranian expats to express themselves. Below are several examples of popular comments on the popular anti-regime Iran International Instagram page, which has 11.1 million followers.[6]


"Such joy has never been seen among the citizens of Iran."


"Who would have believed that Raisi would become a source of joy for the nation."


"This is the first crash in history in which people are worried that there might be survivors"


"This is the first time that he [Raisi] was able to make the nation happy."


"Have you seen such a beautiful morning [as the morning Raisi's death was announced]?"


"The pilot [of the presidential helicopter] has become an Iranian hero."

Iranians Celebrate Raisi's Death In Their Homes

On May 20, 2024, the anti-regime Iran International media outlet shared a video showing a festive meal in an Iranian home after the news of Raisi's death. The meal involved champagne (consumption of alcohol is illegal in Iran) and various sweets.


Source: Instagram.com/iranintltv, May 20, 2024.

On May 26, 2024, the leader of Iran's confectioners' union, Ali Behrmand, stated that records have been broken in the sale of cookies – which are traditionally eaten during celebrations and not during times of mourning – in the week following Raisi's death. Later that day, it was announced that Behrmand was arrested for his statement, and several hours later he published a statement denying that he had ever said such a thing.[7]

Many Iranian influencers also expressed joy over Raisi's death and gained wide exposure and popularity.

Iranian Expat And Activist Masih Alinejad: Joy Over Raisi's Death Is The Right Of Iran's Citizens

On May 20, 2024, Iranian expat journalist and activist Masih Alinejad shared a long Farsi-language X post expressing joy over Raisi's death. She wrote: "Oh dear people of Iran, the joy over the death of Ebrahim Raisi and the murderers of the nation is your right. Be joyful!..." Alinejad also wrote that it is natural for the citizens of Iran to rejoice over the deaths of those who have murdered and oppressed many Iranians over their years in power.


Source: Twitter.com/AlinejadMasih, May 20, 2024.

Iranian Human Rights Activist, Journalist, And Former Political Prisoner In Iran: "[Raisi] Didn't Have A Shred Of Humanity Or Morality! He Is One Of The Most Cold-Blooded Killers I Have Ever Seen"

On May 21, 2024, X user "Grrmanesh," who is an Iranian human rights activist, journalist, and former political prisoner, shared a post in which he wrote: "As one who had a working relationship with Raisi for 11 years in the judiciary, [I can say that] he didn't have a shred of humanity or morality! He is one of the most cold-blooded killers I have ever seen. How can I not rejoice over his death?"


Source: Twitter.com/Grrmanesh, May 21, 2024.

Hamed Esmaeilion, Whose Family Died When The Iranian Regime Shot Down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752: The Opportunity For Raisi's Victims To Bring This Criminal To Justice Has Been Robbed From Them

On May 20, 2024, an Iranian influencer named Hamed Esmaeilion, whose family was killed when the Iranian regime shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, 2020, expressed joy mixed with sadness over Raisi's death, since Raisi and his companions can no longer "face justice before the courts" for his "heinous crimes" against the Iranian people.


Source: Twitter.com/Esmaeilion, May 20, 2024.

2. Iranians' Feelings Of Vengeance

Many Iranian social media users expressed the feeling of vengeance they felt following the death of Raisi, who had been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians. Many videos shared on social media show Iranians celebrating Raisi's death. Particularly prominent among these are videos shared by people whose family members have been killed by the Iranian regime, whether by execution and mock trials or by the regime's violent suppression of protests. The families expressed that from their perspective, Raisi's death constitutes vengeance against the regime for murdering their loves ones.

Iranians Whose Family Members Have Been Killed by The Regime Celebrate Raisi's Death

On May 20, 2024, the anti-regime Iran International media outlet shared on its Instagram page a video posted by the daughters of Minou Majidi, an Iranian woman who was killed in the 2022 anti-hijab protests. The girls can be seen making a toast after hearing the news of the helicopter crash and the possibility that Raisi perished in it.


Source: Instagram.com/iranintltv, May 20, 2024.

On May 20, 2024, Iranian expat, activist, and journalist Masih Alinejad shared on her X account a video showing the mother of Iranian political prisoner Fayman Fathi, who was executed by the regime in January 2024, dancing with her daughter upon hearing the news that Raisi's helicopter crashed.


Source: Twitter.com/AlinejadMasih, May 20, 2024.

On May 20, Iranian human rights activist Mansoura Behkish, who had six of her family members executed by the Iranian regime's death committees (to which Raisi belonged), shared a video on her X account showing her dancing with joy after hearing the news about Raisi's death.


Source: Twitter.com/BehkishM, May 20, 2024.

On May 22, Maryam Bano, the mother of a boy named Abolfazl Amir Atai who was paralyzed and subsequently died after an altercation with Iranian authorities during the 2022 anti-hijab protests, shared on her X account a video in which she said: "This is the result of the cries [and] tears of the mothers over their children, who you [Raisi] murdered." The beginning of the video contained footage from an April 2024 statement at the UN by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian (who was also killed in the helicopter crash) in which he said that "nobody was killed" in response to a question about Iranian civilian deaths during the anti-hijab protests.


Source: Twitter.com/MaryamDior, May 22, 2024.

Artistic Depiction: Raisi's Death Is Revenge For The Deaths Of Anti-Hijab Activists "Mahsa, Nika, Hadis, Hananeh, Sarina, Ghazaleh, Amrita, and Yalda"

Many graphics also expressed the feeling of vengeance felt by many Iranians after Raisi's death. One particularly popular graphic was posted by the Persian Jewess X account on May 21, 2024 and artistically depicted the helicopter crash as the vengeance of the many young women who met their deaths at the hands of Iranian authorities attempting to force them wear the hijab. The graphic depicts a helicopter caught up in the exposed hair of those young girls, who are using their hair to pull the helicopter to the ground. A caption mentions the names of several young women who were killed by Iranian authorities during the anti-hijab protests.


Source: Twitter.com/PersianJewess, May 21, 2023.

Iranian X User Shares Image Depicting Raisi's Likeness Made Out Of Hangman's Rope

On May 21, 2024, Iranian X user "Shaya.M" shared an image depicting the likeness of Raisi made out of hangman's rope. She commented: "Measure for measure for those same ropes that you tied around the necks of the innocent. #IranIsHappy #Helikotlet."


Source: Twitter.com/SHAYA9000, May 21, 2024.

X User: Vengenace Is Raisi Burning To Death

On May 21, 2024, Iranian X user "Binesh" shared a photo depicting the likeness of Raisi emerging from the burning helicopter crash site in a forest. The user commented: "You went up in flames and were burned up, now you feel what we experienced. #IranIsHappy #Helikotlet."


Source: Twitter.com/M_binesh_00, May 21, 2024.

Iranian Social Media Users Express Their Feelings Of Vengeance Over Raisi's Death

Iranian social media users also shared comments on the posts of the anti-regime Iran International Instagram page. In the comments, they expressed their feelings of vengeance over Raisi's death.[8] Below are several examples:


"Now you will understand the worry and the feeling of being a bystander, you will understand the fear of losing a child… [A reference to the concerns expressed by the father of Mohammad Ali Elhashem, Khamenei's representative in eastern Azerbaijan who was aboard the helicopter.]"


"Nika Shakermi, Mehran Samak, Kian Pirflak, Hamidreza Rouhi [names of young Iranians killed during the anti-hijab protests], we were unable to help you, but God has made justice for you."


"In memory of Mohammed Karimi, Mohsen Shekari, Mehrshad Shahidi [young Iranians executed by the regime]."


"In memory of Ukrainian [International Airlines] Flight 752 [shot down by Iranian authorities in January 2020]."


"This joy is dedicated to the memory of all the martyrs killed on the path to liberating the homeland."

3. Expressions Of Hope That Other Regime Officials Die, Alongside Hope For Change

In the hours preceding the official announcement of Raisi's death, many Iranian social media users expressed hope that he indeed died in the crash. Others expressed sadness that other senior Iranian regime officials, and particularly Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, had not also been on the helicopter, and they expressed hope that Khamenei and the other officials will face a similar fate. In addition, some users expressed hope that the Iranian regime will suddenly and easily collapse, just like the helicopter had suddenly crashed.

Iranian X User Expresses Hope For Khamenei's Death

On May 21, 2024, Iranian X user "Kaya" shared a meme depicting the angel of death knocking on a door bearing an image of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, after having left – with a bloody trail behind him – rooms with doors bearing images of Qasem Soleimani, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and Ebrahim Raisi. Kaya commented: "The angel of death is on the way."


Source: Twitter.com/Hqkaya, May 21, 2024.

Graffiti In Mashhad, Raisi's Birthplace: "Next Up – Khamenei"

On May 21, 2024, the anti-regime Iran International media outlet shared on its Instagram page a video showing a young Iranian woman spraying graffiti on a wall in the religious city of Mashhad, Raisi's birthplace, reading: "Next up – Khamenei."


Source: Instagram.com/iranintltv, May 21, 2024.

Iranian Activist Amin Pouria Makes Predictions About Celebrations Of Khamenei's Death

On May 19, 2024, before Raisi's death was announced, Iranian social activist Amin Pouria shared a post on his X account expressing hope that both Raisi and Khamenei die, writing: "It may be that Raisi is dead, and the nation is so happy. Imagine what celebrations there will be when Khamenei dies."


Source: Twitter.com/Mamadporri, May 19, 2024.

Social Media Users Express Hope That Raisi Indeed Died In The Crash, That Khamenei Will Also Die, And That The Regime Collapses

Before Raisi's death was officially announced, Iranian social media users commented on posts shared on Instagram by the anti-regime Iran International media outlet, expressing hope that Raisi and Khamenei both die soon. Users wrote that news of Raisi's death will be "good news that most of the nation is waiting for." Others expressed hope that Raisi will be eaten by wild animals because he had done so much evil the Iranian people while in power, and yet others expressed hope that Khamenei will die in a similar fashion and that Iran will undergo regime change. Below are several prominent examples:[9]


"Inshallah, we shall hear the good news that most of the nation is waiting for [i.e. that Raisi died in the crash]."


"Oh God, gladden the hearts of the entire nation! With such ease!"


"I hope that tonight, no she-wolf will be shy before her cubs for lack of food to bring them [i.e. may wild animals eat Raisi, a commentary on Raisi's policies that brought Iran into economic crisis]."


"Thank You, God. May Khamenei join him."


"Yesterday, we did not expect the helicopter crash. May the regime also fall with such ease, all at once gladdening the hearts of the entire nation."

* N. Katirachi is a Research Fellow at MEMRI; Ayelet Savyon is Director of the Iran Media Project at MEMRI.

 

[1] The United Nations flew its flags at half-mast, and the UN Security Council held a minute of silence in memory of Raisi. Notably, the American representative to the UN also stood in silence during this minute. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 11339, European Union Officials, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi – Together With Hamas, Hizbullah, And The Taliban – Express Condolences For The Death Of Iranian President Raisi, Who Was Responsible For The Murder Of Thousands Of Iranians In 1988 And Since , May 21, 2024.

[2]  Mizanonline.ir, May 21, 2024.

[3] Iranwire (UK), May 21, 2024.

[4]  T.me/komitemojazatimamreza1.

[5] Tasnim (Iran), May 21, 2024.

[6] Instagram.com/iranintltv, May 20, 2024

[7] Bartrina (Iran), May 27, 2024.

[8] Instagram.com/iranintltv, May 19-20, 2024.

[9] Instagram.com/iranintltv, May 19-20, 2024.

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