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Iranian President Dies in Helicopter Accident

Posted on the 21 May 2024 by Sampathkumar Sampath

In classical antiquity, the river was known to the Greeks as Araxes – in  Azerbaijani, the river's name is Araz. In Persian, Kurdish and Turkish its name is ارس (Aras). Varzaqan is a city in the Central District of Varzaqan County  East Azerbaijan province, Iran.  The city is famous for the Sungun copper mine.

Khoda Afarin Dam  is an earth-fill embankment dam on the Aras River straddling the international border between Iran and Azerbaijan.   Armenian de facto protectorate Republic of Artsakh occupied the area in 1993, during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, but in Oct 2020, the Azerbaijani forces retook control of the dam during 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  The purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power generation and irrigation. It was conceived as a joint project with the Soviet Union and both sides reached an agreement in Oct 1977. Designs were finalized in 1982, revised in the early 1990s and construction began in 1999. 

Iranian President dies in helicopter accident

The place is in news for wrong reasons  -  On 19 May 2024, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi commissioned the Khoda Afarin hydroelectric complex with its respective water reservoir holding 503 million m3 as 40% of its total capacity; in addition to inaugurating the Giz Galasi hydroelectric complex.

On that fateful day, a Bell 212 helicopter crashed near Varzaqan, Iran, while en route to Tabriz from the Khoda Afarin Dam. The helicopter was carrying the President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, governor-general of East Azerbaijan province Malek Rahmati, and Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, the representative of the Supreme Leader in East Azerbaijan. All nine passengers and crew were killed in the crash.  The crash took place while Raisi was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan, near the city of Jolfa, on the Azerbaijan–Iran border.  Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) reported that rescue operations encountered difficulties due to the dense forest terrain, compounded by adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain, fog, and strong winds.[ A day before the crash, the Iran Meteorological Organization issued an orange weather warning for the region.

For inaugurating Giz Galasi,   a helicopter carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Governor-General of East Azerbaijan Malek Rahmati, and the Supreme Leader's Representative in East Azerbaijan Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem as well as Sardar Seyed Mehdi Mousavi, head of Raisi’s security team, two military pilots holding the rank of colonel and a flight technician reportedly  departed with two other helicopters in a convoy to Tabriz.  At approximately 13:30 IRST (UTC+03:30), the helicopter carrying Raisi crashed  shortly after some passengers made an emergency call. Energy Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Housing and Transportation Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash, who were traveling in the other two helicopters, subsequently arrived safely  in Tabriz.

Conflicting reports stated  that the helicopter crashed either near the city of Jolfa or in the villages of Tavil or Uzi.   The Islamic Republic News Agency, citing residents who heard sounds, said it crashed in the Dizmar Forest region, a wildlife corridor between Uzi and Pir Davood, near the northern Varzaqan area of East Azerbaijan province.

Ebrahim Raisolsadati, served as eighth president of Iran from 2021 until his death in 2024. In his early career, Raisi served in several positions in Iran's judicial system, including Deputy Prosecutor and Prosecutor of Tehran. For his role on the so-called death committee during the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners, he became known as the "Butcher of Tehran".  He was later Deputy Chief Justice (2004–2014), Attorney General (2014–2016), and Chief Justice (2019–2021). He was Custodian and Chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, a bonyad, from 2016 until 2019.   He was the son-in-law of Mashhad Friday prayer leader and Grand Imam of Imam Reza shrine, Ahmad Alamolhoda.

Raisi ran for president in 2017 as the candidate of the conservative Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, losing to moderate incumbent president Hassan Rouhani, 57% to 38.3%. Raisi successfully ran for president a second time in 2021 with 62.9% of the votes, succeeding Hassan Rouhani.  There were reports of some rigging too !!

Pictured at the start is a representational image of Bell 212 helicopter - first introduced in the late 1960s as an evolution of the Bell 205, the Bell 212 quickly established itself as a workhorse in the helicopter industry. With its twin-engine configuration, it offered increased power and reliability compared to its predecessor making it well-suited for a wide range of missions including utility transport, search and rescue, firefighting and military operations.

The president of Iran  is the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The president is the second highest-ranking official of Iran, after the Supreme Leader. The first election was held in 1980 with Abulhassan Banisadr winning the election. The current acting President is Mohammad Mokhber following the death of Ebrahim Raisi.

With regards – S Sampathkumar

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