Ebrahim Raisi has been sworn in as the new president of Iran at a ceremony in Tehran, sealing a process regarded by millions as pre-ordained from the start.
Wearing the traditional black robes and with his hand on the Qur’an, the hanging judge and lifelong regime acolyte gave the oath of office before a consortium of diplomats and MPs at the Iranian parliament on Thursday.
The 60-year-old Raisi said he would strive to see sanctions on Iran lifted and appeared to acknowledge the challenges ahead, saying he faced “the highest level of hostilities by Iran's enemies, unjust economic sanctions, widespread psychological warfare and the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.”
But he also appeared to promise to stand behind Iran’s militant proxies in the region, including Lebanese Hezbollah, adding: "The message of the election was resistance against arrogant powers.”
The message of the election was more evident in the fact that only 48 percent of eligible voters – according to official figures – bothered to turn out at all, while an unprecedented 13 percent of votes were spoiled or blank ballots, amid widespread disgust at Raisi’s win being practically fixed by the Guardian Council.
The presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan and senior officials from Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Venezuela and South Korea were among those in attendance. But the European Union also controversially sent a representative, European External Action Service chief Enrique Mora, to Tehran to attend the ceremony.
It came even after Raisi’s horrific and well-documented record of enabling serious human rights abuses in Iran – from the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, to his key role in the 1988 massacre, to the torture and execution of protesters throughout his time as Chief Justice – had made headlines around the world after his electoral win.
During his inauguration, Raisi, used his platform to make the astounding claim that the Islamic Republic's agents were "the real defenders of human rights". Amnesty International recently called for him to be investigated, by the United Nations if necessary, for crimes against humanity. The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran has demanded the same.
On learning of the EU’s plans, earlier this week a diverse range of Iranian human rights organizations, including the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, the Free Baluchistan Movement and the Rojhelat Women’s Organization issued a strongly-worded statement lambasting the decision.
The group said there was no question about Raisi’s role in international crimes. “There has been no EU representative to the inauguration of [Alexander] Lukashenko as president of Belarus,” they pointed out. “Why is the EU now sending a representative to co-celebrate the inauguration of Raisi? Our question is whether we, as people from Central Asia, are seen as less valuable than people from Belarus.”
They added: “We urge you to address crimes against humanity, rather than standing with those who commit the crimes. We urge the EU to stand up for its own principles.”
Prominent Iranian opposition campaigner-in-exile Masih Alinejad, who was recently the target of a foiled kidnapping plot by Iranian intelligence agents, also said she was “furious” to learn of Mora’s attendance. “This empowers Raisi, who has committed crimes against humanity, to kill more people,” she wrote on Twitter.
An EU spokeswoman earlier this week said Mora, who has been the EU’s coordinator in recent, stalled talks in Vienna on a return to the JCPOA, was going to Tehran as a stand-in for top diplomat Josep Borrell.
She added that it was “crucial to engage diplomatically with the new administration” and the EU’s priority was “to facilitate the way back to full JCPOA implementation”.
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