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How Iran’s people-friendly president developed unbreakable bond with masses

By Humaira Ahad

Billboards across the Iranian capital hail the late Iranian president as someone who worked indefatigably and tirelessly for the people of Iran, a fitting tribute to the man who saw himself as a mere “servant” of the people and described his government as “people’s government.”

During his three years in office, President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi earned respect from people for his people-friendly approach to governance and for touring almost every province to meet people and personally listen to their grievances, something that had no parallel.

As fate would have it, the last provincial trip of the ‘People’s President’, from the border region with Azerbaijan to the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, ended in his martyrdom. 

This time he returned home in a casket draped in the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Visiting the late president’s house to offer his condolences, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei commended the tireless spirit of the deceased soul.

“He told me, I returned from a tour at 3 am and found it is not possible to sleep here. In the morning there was a stone-laying ceremony at Karaj,” the Leader told the bereaved family members.

“He said, he went to Karaj the same night and rested there for one or two hours to feel fresh in the morning. He had returned from a twenty-day tour. All this work.”

President Raeisi’s untimely and tragic demise in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, after inaugurating a dam project on the border with Azerbaijan, came as a shock to all and sundry.

A pall of gloom descended on Iran as people took to the streets to mourn their beloved president.

Announcing his death, Iran’s cabinet in a statement lauded the “indefatigable and hard-working president” who made the “ultimate sacrifice on the path of serving his nation.”

President Raeisi, true to his reputation, would always be seen among people, traveling the length and breadth of the country to meet ordinary Iranians and give a patient hearing to their problems.

In his brief presidential stint, he traveled nearly 40,000 km, covering all the provinces. His country-wide trips were mostly reserved for Fridays. The dedicated president preferred spending his weekend among the masses, to be acquainted with their issues and consolidate his connection with people.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution on Raeisi

“The simple lifestyle and minimum formalities in the personal and working behavior of the (Raeisi) administration, especially about the president himself, is impressive to me,” the Leader of the Islamic Revolution said about the Iranian president in August 2023.

Ayatollah Khamenei always acknowledged the tireless efforts of President Raeisi and his administration in improving the livelihood of the people of Iran.

In a message issued on May 20, a day after the fatal air crash that led to the death of the Iranian president and his companions, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Ayatollah Khamenei described Raeisi as a hard-working cleric and a popular president who dedicated his life to serving the people of Iran, the country, and Islam.

“In this bitter tragedy, the Iranian nation lost a warm-hearted, humble, and valued servant,” said the Leader, adding that President Raeisi never took a break from work despite facing criticism from ill-wishers.

Ayatollah Khamenei regarded Raeisi as a "dear and tireless leader", a phrase that had never been used by him for anyone before, showing the admiration Leader had for his hard work and integrity.

"Beloved President Raisi knew no fatigue. In this painful incident, the people of Iran have lost a sincere, dedicated, and valuable servant. For him, the well-being and satisfaction of the people, reflecting divine satisfaction, prevailed above all,” the Leader of the Islamic Revolution said.

Ayatollah Khamenei further stated that Martyr Ayatollah Raeisi did not distinguish between day and night and worked round the clock in order to resolve people's problems.

Unbreakable connection with people

After being elected as the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2021, Raeisi started working tirelessly to improve economic conditions, which were significantly affected by the pandemic.

The devoted president would travel extensively even during the times of COVID-19, visiting hospitals and pharmacies. It was due to his government’s extensive efforts that Iran was able to locally produce COVID-19 vaccines to contain the spread of the pandemic.

The country bypassed cruel and illegal Western sanctions that hindered the easy flow of medical supplies, including lifesaving vaccines to Iran, during the pandemic.

As the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Raeisi abandoned all the ceremonial protocols and aristocratic approaches to work and chose to walk among the ranks of ordinary people.

During his time in office, he traveled to the far-flung parts of Iran. According to his close aides, the late president believed that meeting people, seeing their living conditions, and talking to them were the prerequisites to understanding their concerns and grievances and then making efforts to resolve them.

In his interaction with people during provincial trips or even during his meetings in the capital, the late president was known for his humility and humbleness.

Mahmoud Gabarlo, an Iranian cinema artist and film critic, wrote about his meeting with President Raeisi at an Iftar dinner for artists and cultural figures.

“Twice I was the guest of Mr. Raeisi, the late president. I participated with a group of artists and writers. My motive to accept the invitation to these governmental parties was to witness the President's personal interaction with individuals belonging to the field of art and culture,” he stated.

“Regardless of my critical writings about the 13th government’s policies in the field of culture and art, especially cinema, I witnessed President Raeisi’s honest and benevolent behavior with all the people of culture and art whose spectrum of thought was different from the President. One can never forget his warm and sincere greetings…”

As an Iranian, he added, it is “not possible for me to not mourn the passing away” of the president who “carried the personal traits of compassion, simplicity and sincerity while working for the people of the country.”

Similar thoughts about the martyred president were echoed by Syed Amir Meernaseri, a labor activist working in Hapco, an Iranian freight company.

“Ayatollah Raeisi spoke very informally and softly to make us comfortable and lessen our hesitation. He would bring himself to the level of the workers so that the workers open up and share their problems,” he was quoted as saying.

He said concern for the working class was one of the important personality traits of the late president.

Referring to the late president’s diligence in solving the Hepco factory's problems, Meerrnaseri said Ayatollah Raeisi “had been pursuing Hepco's issues since he was the head of the judiciary.” 

“President Raeisi visited us in the factory. His visit came as a pleasurable shock to the workers especially due to the Presidential protocol which hampers such visits due to security concerns. The workers credited the non-closure of the factory to this high-ranking martyr,” he said.

“The day Ayatollah Raeisi came to the Hepco factory, hierarchically, the CEO should have reported to him, but he asked for us and we, the ordinary workers reported to him. The day we were called to his office, all the governors and the ministers were present in the meeting. The President treated us with special respect and made us feel at home. He made sure that we do not consider ourselves strangers at the place or feel any form of anxiety in the presence of high-ranking officials,” Meernaseri who had met the late president at least 5 times added.”

Colleagues praise the ‘hard-working’ president

President Raeisi, who served in different roles in the country’s judiciary and rose through the ranks to become the judiciary chief, was revered by his colleagues for his hard work and intellect.

Attending a memorial ceremony for the late Iranian president, Ayatollah Abdol-Ali Gawahi, director of political beliefs at the general headquarters of the Iranian Army said he worked for the deprived and never showed any signs of exhaustion and would always travel to solve the problems of the people.

“His personality was generous and he believed in simple living,” he was quoted as saying.

Chief of Justice of Kerman Province, Ebrahim Hamidi described “people-oriented leadership” as the principle characteristic of President Raeisi's governance.

While offering condolences to the people of Iran on the martyrdom of the late president and his companions, Hamidi said he learned many lessons from him, “The most important sign of his moral character was a good relationship with people and a revolutionary spirit.”

Commenting on Raeisi’s tenure as the chief justice of the country, Hamidi said one of his prime concerns   was to “alleviate people’s problems through his people-oriented approach.”

“Ayatollah Raeisi always emphasized proper and direct communication with the people and appeared as a successful model in the arena of human engagements. He always advised the government officials to respect and honor the common masses,” he stated.

The judiciary official further said that the concern for the people of Iran could be seen in Raeisi’s provincial trips as the president visited most impoverished areas of the country to meet people.

“His presence on the ground during times of crisis would provide a feeling of reassurance to people.”

Dr.  Muhammad Dostar, head of the Guilan University in the northern city of Rasht, considered Raeisi as a person “who believed in prioritizing Islamic ethics and morals in political activities.”

In an interview with ISNA news agency, Dostar said Raeisi “did not adhere to the formalities that people follow when appointed to a high position.”

“Martyr Ayatollah was a leader of the people. He was fully aware of people's issues as he would take regular trips to different Iranian states. He made sure that people’s problems are followed till a solution is reached,” he stated.

The head of Guilan University stated that the late president had special respect for the common masses and tried to stay informed about the issues that the people of the country were facing.

Raeisi inherited austerity

In the past week, a video was doing rounds on the internet that showed the simple dwelling of the late president’s mother, Seyedeh Esmat Khodadad Hosseini in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The octogenarian lives in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in the holy city. Many of Hosseini’s neighbors were unaware of her being the late president’s mother until the news of his martyrdom came and people started flocking to the house of the president’s mother to offer condolences.

“President Raeisi never came to visit his mother’s house with his entourage. He would often visit her during late hours to avoid trouble to neighbors,” said a woman who has known the family for decades.

The video went viral on social media with people praising the simple lifestyle that the family practices. Many netizens said that the martyred president inherited the austere way of living from his mother.

'Watch on Enemy', a page on X, was all praise for the simplicity exhibited by the president’s family.

“This is not just a lesson for Iran but for all of us, whether in Europe, Pakistan, or anywhere else. This is the house of the President of Iran’s mother. Unlike some politicians who fake poverty to win hearts, President Raeisi (r) never spoke about his personal life.”

Slamming the Western propaganda on Iran, FirstbloodHassouna also praised the late president,

‘They say, ‘the Iranian officials are corrupt and multibillionaire western funded puppets.’ Iran Politics Meanwhile, back to reality…the house of the mother of the martyr President Ibrahim Raisi in the city of Mashhad.”

Margarita Barnard, a netizen compared the late Iranian president with Western heads of the state.

“This is how President Raeisi of Iran’s own mother lived. A poor woman so unlike Western leaders he never paid himself a huge salary while his people starved in a gutter. THAT’S a true leader…”

Rosa Rafiey, a peace activist, was also impressed by the simple way of life of the Iranian president’s mother.

“All the economic power and facilities of the country were at the disposal of this honorable martyr as the first executive person, but his mother’s house was so simple. Raeisi didn’t take anything for herself [himself], unlike many other presidents in the world. Divine man.”


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