Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s Helicopter Crashes in Northern Region, Condition Unknown

In a dramatic turn of events, a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi crashed while he was visiting the northern region of East Azerbaijan Province. The incident, reported by Iranian state news agency IRNA on Sunday, has left the condition of President Raisi currently unknown.

The helicopter, also transporting Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, encountered foggy conditions that have hindered emergency crews from reaching the crash site. The exact status of President Raisi’s helicopter remains unclear.

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Mohammad Bagheri, confirmed that the Iranian armed forces have been present in the crash area since the early hours of Sunday. In response to the incident, twenty rescue teams and drones have been dispatched to the site to assist in the search and rescue efforts.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian were among a group of dignitaries onboard a helicopter that crashed while returning from a dam opening ceremony on Iran’s border with Azerbaijan. The helicopter crashed upon landing in the Varzaqan region on Sunday, as reported by IRNA English.

According to IRNA, locals indicated that the helicopter crashed in the Dizmar Forest area, situated between the villages of Ozi and Pir Davood. Residents in northern Varzeqan, East Azerbaijan Province, reported hearing noises from the crash site.

Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi reported that one of the helicopters was forced to make a hard landing due to foggy weather conditions. During a televised address posted on Telegram by Iranian state news agency IRNA, Vahidi explained, “Now different rescue groups are moving towards the area but given that it is foggy and the unsuitable weather and the conditions it may take some time until they reach where the helicopter is.”

Vahidi mentioned that there had been some contact with the passengers on the helicopter, but due to the complicated terrain, maintaining communication is difficult. “We are waiting, inshallah, for rescue groups to quickly reach the location of this accident where the helicopter is and give us more information,” he added.

According to the Tasnim news agency, Red Crescent Relief Forces, along with auxiliary military and law enforcement forces, have initiated a widespread effort to locate the helicopter. “Some of the president’s companions on this helicopter were able to communicate with Central Headquarters, raising hopes that the incident could have ended without casualties,” Tasnim reported.

The helicopter was part of a convoy of three helicopters. The other two helicopters, carrying ministers and officials, arrived safely at their destination, according to Tasnim.

Who is President Raisi?

President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s eighth president, is a former hardline judiciary chief known for his conservative stance. Elected in 2021 in a historically uncompetitive presidential contest, Raisi has a long career in Iran’s judicial system.

Born in 1960, Raisi attended the seminary in Qom and earned a Ph.D. in law from Shahid Motahari University. He began his career as a prosecutor in the early 1980s, eventually becoming the prosecutor general of Tehran in 1994, the prosecutor general of Iran in 2014, and the chief justice of the country in 2019.

During his two years as Iran’s chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi intensified repression of dissent and human rights abuses, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. In November 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Raisi, citing his involvement in the 1988 “death commission” as a prosecutor and a United Nations report indicating that Iran’s judiciary approved the execution of at least nine children between 2018 and 2019.

In June 2021, Raisi ran against his predecessor, former President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, and won 18 million of the nearly 29 million ballots cast. His inauguration marked the start of a new hardline era, potentially signaling major shifts in the Islamic Republic’s domestic and foreign policies.

In 2022, amidst the Woman Life Freedom protest movement, Raisi withdrew from a long-planned interview with CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour at the United Nations General Assembly in New York after she declined a last-minute demand to wear a headscarf.

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