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US, Europe stay away from Raisi tribute at UN

The top deputy to Secretary-General António Guterres prayed for mass murderer’s entry to heaven.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Secretary-General António Guterres at U.N. Headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2023. Photo by lev radin/Shutterstock.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Secretary-General António Guterres at U.N. Headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2023. Photo by lev radin/Shutterstock.

The United States and Europe stayed away from a U.N. General Assembly tribute to the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The so-called “Butcher of Tehran,” said to be responsible for the killings of thousands of Iranian dissidents, died on May 20 in a helicopter crash that also killed the country’s foreign minister and six others.

“The United States will not attend today’s United Nations tribute event for President Raisi in any capacity,” Nate Evans, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said in a statement. “Raisi was involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Some of the worst human rights abuses on record took place during his tenure.”

The boycott came just over a week after the Biden administration controversially expressed condolences upon Raisi’s death.

A General Assembly tribute is a long-standing practice for heads of state who die in office, but few, if any, came with the baggage of the 63-year-old Raisi.

By protocol, each regional group sends a representative to give a eulogy, with the United States slotted in as the U.N.’s host country.

But the West and East European groups also boycotted the event, which drew some 100 protesters outside of U.N. headquarters, waving Iranian flags and chiding the global body for attempting to paint Raisi in any kind of positive light.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General António Guterres, told JNS at a Thursday press briefing that he was not aware of any U.N. official who went to meet with the protesters or of any request by that group to meet with a U.N. representative.

Guterres said at Thursday’s tribute, “I wish to assure that the United Nations stands in solidarity with the Iranian people and in the quest for peace, development and fundamental freedoms.”

While some who took to the General Assembly dais delivered fairly neutral, generalized remarks stoked in diplomatic language, others spoke of Raisi in glowing terms. 

Zéphyrin Maniratanga, Burundi’s U.N. ambassador, speaking on behalf of Africa, said Raisi was a “distinguished leader who devoted his life to serving his nation and fostering international cooperation, particularly with African countries.”

‘A challenging time’

Guterres, while avoiding complimentary language, said that Raisi “led Iran at a challenging time for the country, the region and globally.”

The secretary-general lit a firestorm in late October as he appeared to qualify Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre by going through a laundry list of Palestinian grievances, claiming the terrorist attack did not occur “in a vacuum,” leading to still-disintegrating ties between Israel and the United Nations.

JNS asked Dujarric why Guterres didn’t feel it was appropriate to add context and background to his Thursday remarks, stating the reasons why Iran and the region are facing a challenging time—namely the Islamic Republic’s support of terrorist proxies in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen, along with its provision of drones for use by Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine.

“I think the secretary-general delivered a brief statement. I think the words were very clear, all the words. He was just stating a fact,” said Dujarric.

Before Thursday’s General Assembly session, some 45 current and former U.N. officials, experts, ambassadors and judges sent a joint letter to Guterres in protest of the Raisi tribute, given his involvement in mass atrocities.

While Guterres attempted to maintain an even-handed tone, his top assistant recently prayed for Raisi’s heavenly ascension.

In a May 20 tweet, Amina Mohammed, U.N. deputy secretary-general, offering condolences to Iran on the loss of those on the helicopter, wrote, “May Allah grant” those on board entrance to Jannatul Firdaus, i.e. the “Gardens of Paradise” or highest level of heaven under Islam.

Asked on Thursday by JNS whether such a statement from a high-level U.N. official, in effect praying for a mass murderer of his own people to be granted entrance to the gates of heaven, was appropriate, Dujarric responded only that Mohammed “was referring to the death of an individual.”

However, a search of Mohammed’s X account reveals no such prayer for the president of Namibia or the emir of Kuwait upon their deaths in February and December, respectively.

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