First Published: 2017-05-19

Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran
Leading rival to Rouhani in Friday's presidential election is a hardline judge with close ties to the supreme leader.
Middle East Online

In public, Raisi has an austere charisma

TEHRAN - Born into a religious family in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Mashhad on August 23, 1960, Ebrahim Raisi wears the black turban of a "seyed" whose genealogy is said to lead back to Prophet Mohammed.

In public, he has an austere charisma, and is surrounded by an entourage with ties to the Islamic regime's most hardline elements.

He has focused his campaign on the poor, brandishing his credentials as the head of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, which is also a powerful and hugely wealthy charitable foundation.

"I represent the workers, the farmers, the impoverished women," he says, vowing to triple cash handouts.

It is a message that has fallen on fertile ground at a time when unemployment is at least 12.5 percent and almost everyone is feeling the stagnation of the economy.

He does not oppose the deal signed with world powers in 2015, which lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran's nuclear programme.

But he says the current government's negotiating efforts were "weak" and called for a much tougher line "in the face of the enemy".

There is little chance Raisi will ease social restrictions or release opposition leaders held under house arrest since the 2009 protest movement, known to conservatives as "the sedition".

"Those who sympathise with the heads of sedition must know that the great nation of Iran will never forgive this great injustice," he said in 2014.

- A revolutionary life -

Raisi is entrenched in the conservative establishment, having served as attorney general, supervisor of state broadcaster IRIB and prosecutor in the Special Court for Clerics.

His father-in-law leads Friday prayers in Mashhad and both have seats on the Assembly of Experts that will choose the next supreme leader -- a position for which Raisi himself is often rumoured to be in the running.

Raisi's father died when he was five, and he entered the seminary at an early age, excelling in his studies and moving to the seat of clerical learning in Qom in 1975.

After the 1979 revolution, he was selected for special training by the clerical establishment and studied under Ali Khamenei, who would later become supreme leader.

In 1985, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, he became deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Tehran that would oversee the execution of thousands of political prisoners.

After serving in a series of increasingly powerful judicial posts, Raisi was appointed by Khamenei in March 2016 to head the Imam Reza shrine.

Known as Astan Qods Razavi, it runs Iran's holiest shrine as well as a huge business conglomerate with interests in everything from IT and banking to construction and agriculture.

 

Baghdad refuses talks with Kurdistan about referendum results

Three Israelis killed at West Bank settlement

Seven arrested in Egypt for raising rainbow flag at concert

European ambassadors to US strongly back Iran nuclear pact

Dubai set to become first city with flying taxis

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation process shows growing Egyptian influence in region

74-year-old Iranian gets death sentence for explicit parties

Iraqi soldiers take part in Turkish military drill

Iran joins Turkey in warning of regional chaos from Kurd vote

Turkish hunger-striking academics in intensive care

Returning Syrians find Raqa city unrecognisable

How far can Baghdad become independent of Iranian influence?

Qatar World Cup worker sacked after speaking to UN team

China conducts first military drills in Djibouti

Germany’s de facto ‘IS leader’ on trial

Saudi official axed over king's image with Yoda

Erdogan expects ‘ethnic war’ after Iraqi Kurdish independence vote

Syrian government ready to discuss Kurdish autonomy

63-year-old American abducted in Yemen's Sanaa

US kills ISIS chiefs hiding in new nerve centre

Saudi establishment spreading Shiite hate speech

Madrid hails Rabat’s collaboration in fighting terrorism

Regional tensions rise in Kurds’ independence vote

Iraq Kurds start voting in historic independence referendum

UAE announces plans for region’s first nuclear reactor

Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with border closure, oil block

Putin to visit Erdogan this week for Syria, Iraq talks

Sudan vows to step up efforts to improve US ties

Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq

Egyptian ‘world’s heaviest woman’ dies in Abu Dhabi

Palestinian unity government remains unlikely

Emirati man fights his employer to serve in country’s army

Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban

Turkey denies closing Iraqi border in response to Kurdish vote

US air strikes kill 17 Islamic State militants in Libya

US-led strikes killed 84 civilians near Syria's Raqa

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Iran defies US, tests missile