Why fireworks, celebrations in Iran on President Raisi's death

1 month ago

People in Iran are celebrating the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi with fireworks, memes and jokes. But why this outburst of joy and celebration over the death of a national leader? And is the celebration just about Raisi's death or is it indicative of a fightback by Iranians long repressed by a theocratic state?

celebration iran raisi death

The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has prompted many Iranians in Iran and abroad to celebrate with fireworks and drinks. (Image: Social Media)

"I think this is the only crash in history where everyone is worried if someone survived," Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad wrote on X, after reports of that a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi crashed. "Happy World Helicopter Day!" the Iranian activist wrote.

While hundreds gathered in the main squares of Tehran and Mashhad to pray for the safety of President Ebrahim Raisi following reports of the helicopter crash, scores of videos and reports emerged showing Iranians celebrating the news. Many Iranians and Iranian expatriates on social media were also seen joking and sharing memes of the crash.

There were several videos of celebratory fireworks lighting up the night sky in Iran.

Raisi wasn't just the President of Iran, he was the person touted to succeed Ali Khamenei as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But why this outburst of joy and celebration over the death of a national leader? And is the celebration just about Raisi or is it emblematic of a fightback by people repressed by a theocratic state?

While many were glued to TV screens and smartphones for updates on the wellbeing of the Iranian President, many in Iran and abroad were seen rejoicing at the possibility of the death of 63-year-old Raisi, who is often referred to as the "Butcher of Tehran".

Raisi was also a symbol of Iran, a moderate and modern Shia Muslim country, which had taken an extreme conservative turn after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were among nine people who were confirmed dead on Sunday after their chopper crashed in Iran's mountainous northwestern region on Saturday.

The reports of the helicopter crash involving President Ebrahim Raisi, "the butcher of Tehran", triggered widespread celebrations across the Shia nation, who had been in office since August 2021 with an iron-fist.

Known for his proximity to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Raisi, a hardliner, was in line to be Iran's next Supreme Leader.

A theocratic hardliner, Raisi was known to be responsible for crushing dissent and free speech in Iran, and enforcing the harsh "hijab and chastity law" to restrict women's attire. The law gave unlimited powers to the morality police in Iran.

The enforcement of strict Islamic laws, like the "hijab and chastity law", triggered nationwide protests against the theocratic regime after the custodial death of Mahsa Amini in 2022. Amini was arrested by the morality police for not wearing a hijab.

The protests last year marked one of the most significant challenges faced by the Iranian regime since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

As a student, Raisi took part in protests against the liberal Shah of Iran, who was overthrown in the 1979 revolution.

Raisi joined the judiciary when he was just 25 and soon became the deputy prosecutor of Tehran. He was personally groomed by Ayatollah Khamenei, who is Iran's Supreme Leader.

Raisi's role in Iran's 1988 mass execution of political prisoners, as the deputy prosecutor in Tehran, earned him the moniker, "The Butcher of Tehran".

He was one of the four members of the 'death committee' formed in 1988 to try political prisoners. The 'death committee' conducted summary trials and executed thousands of political dissidents.

Iranian authorities secretly kidnapped and "extrajudicially executed" more than 5,000 people between July and September 1988, according to Amnesty .

Raisi, a hardline cleric groomed by Khamenei, became the President of Iran in 2021.


Iran has faced western sanctions over its alleged military nuclear programme. These sanctions have impacted the economy of Iran, the world's fifth-biggest petroleum producer. Iran also maintains one of the biggest armies in the Middle East.

Common people are the worst sufferers, and combined with the Iranian government's push for a more hardline form of Shia Islam, Iran became a cauldron bubbling with popular discontent.

"Widespread bureaucratic corruption, woeful economic mismanagement, sky-high inflation, high unemployment. Not to mention tight censorship and severe punishment or death for political dissent," analyst Jonathan Harounoff told The Times of Iran.

There is a massive shift in Iranian society and that is also fuelling the rage against the hardline Islamist government.

A 2021 survey by the Group for Analysing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN) revealed that 47% of Iranians have switched from being religious to non-religious.

Along with celebrations triggered by reports of the death of the Iranian second-in-command, some on social media hinted at the possibility of the theocratic government being toppled.

"It would be great if Raisi's death triggered the overthrow of the oppressive misogynist regime in Iran. The state apparatus appears strong but remember that regimes that rule without consent, as East Germany demonstrated, are in fact incredibly fragile," wrote UK-based Green Party politician, Carne Ross.

Ebrahim Raisi's presidency also saw Iran's first direct attack on arch enemy Israel.

Iran has funded the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which triggered the Gaza war with its October 7 carnage in Israel.

The Iranian regime is also known to fund radical proxies like Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Yemeni Houthis and Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Iran uses these groups to target the interests of the US and Israel in the region.


Social media were flooded with video footage of celebratory fireworks in the Iranian skies, reported The Iran .

"Let's celebrate the good news of Ebrahim Raisi's chopper crash," a person lighting up a sparkler was heard saying in a now viral video.

The vengeful Iranian regime has forced hundreds of thousands of Iranians to flee the country. So, protests were seen outside Iran too.

Several people outside London's Iranian Embassy were seen dancing to the news of the helicopter crash.

The daughters of anti-regime Minoo Majidi, a 62-year-old woman who was shot by the Iranian security forces in 2022, were seen having a drink and toasting to the news.

"I am so happy to see smiles on your faces," wrote Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on X.

Minoo Majidi, who received injuries from 167 pellets, died during the Woman-Life-Freedom movement in 2022, which carried the slogan "Death to Khamenei" (Supreme Leader of Iran), following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman.

"Why should I hide my feelings while many young Iranians, especially women who have been wounded during uprisings, are sharing videos of him dancing in joy over his death? We Iranians will fight for our freedom, democracy, and dignity until the day we get rid of Khamenei (Supreme Leader) and his religious dictatorship," added Masih Alinejad in another post on X.

"Iran's dead president Raisi executed thousands of Iranians and raped women in political prisons. His nickname was the 'Butcher of Tehran', wrote Mahyar Tousi, the founder of Mahyar Tousi TV.

People in Syria were seen "passing out baklava in celebration" of the Raisi chopper crash.

"Free Syrians in northern Aleppo are passing out baklava in celebration of Iranian President Raisi's helicopter crash," pro-democracy activist Kareem Rifai wrote on X.

The celebrations in Iran that went through the night have, however, prompted the Iranian government to react. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been deployed at several places in Iran to "prevent an uprising", reported The Iran , a portal of exiled Iranians.

One has to remember that those celebrating risked arrest, and even death, for acting against the hardline state. The smoke from the fireworks shows, there is a bigger fire on the ground against the repressive regime in Iran.

Published By:

Sushim Mukul

Published On:

May 20, 2024

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