Ebrahim Raisi was Iran’s president for almost three years. Even though religious leader Khamenei has the final say on all strategic matters, Raisi’s power and influence were great. His death was confirmed on Monday morning in a helicopter crash.

Ebrahim Raisi, President of Iran since August 2021, is considered an arch-conservative hardliner. As the preferred candidate and protégé of the religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he won the presidential election in June 2021 with almost 62 percent of the vote. The now 63-year-old cleric thus officially became the successor to the more moderate Hassan Ruhani, who was not allowed to run again after two terms in office.

Born in 1960 in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, Raisi is considered very influential within the Islamic system. He also maintains a close relationship with Khamenei. According to the constitution, Raisi is head of government, while actual power is concentrated in the hands of the head of state, Khamenei, who has the final say in all strategic matters.

Raisi served in the judiciary for over three decades and was appointed head of the judiciary in 2019. He is said to have been responsible for numerous arrests and executions of political dissidents in his previous role as prosecutor. This is why he was nicknamed the “Butcher of Tehran” during this time, as the US magazine Forbes reports. He took part in a so-called death commission that ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

In autumn 2022, the death of the Iranian Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini sparked massive protests in Iran. The young woman died in police custody after being arrested by moral police for violating Islamic dress codes. As a result, tens of thousands of people demonstrated across the country against the government’s repressive course and the Islamic system of rule.

Security forces responded with violence and harsh punishments. Tens of thousands of demonstrators were arrested, many were killed during the protests and several were executed. The protests plunged the political leadership into its worst crisis in decades.

The EU decided on several occasions to impose sanctions against Iran – because of human rights violations, but also because of Iranian support for the Russian war against Ukraine. At the same time, there is growing concern that Iran will become a nuclear power. International nuclear negotiations with Tehran have reached an impasse. Relations with the West also deteriorated under Raisi’s government.

Iran is deeply hostile to Israel. In April, Iran attacked Israel for the first time not through regional proxies such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen or the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, but directly – in response to the bombing of the Iranian embassy compound in Syria’s capital Damascus. This attack also fueled fears of further escalation in the Middle East.

On Monday morning it was announced that all those on board were killed in the presidential helicopter crash in Iran on Sunday. Among the nine dead are President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian, state news agency Irna and state television reported on Monday.