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A Week of Global Uncertainty: Tragedy and Political Turmoil

“When will death knock at my door? Where?

It’s unknown, it comes suddenly, unexpectedly, and swiftly.”

These lines from Forough Farrokhzad, one of the significant figures of 20th-century Iranian literature, serve as a portal from the past to the present. In the last week alone, significant developments have occurred globally. Intertwined times, unexpected fates, and sudden tragedies… Such a week has passed that, like in Farrokhzad’s verses, it reminded us once again that death is lurking at the door and life offers no guarantees.

In 2009, when Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, one of Turkey’s prominent politicians, died in a helicopter crash in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey experienced a great shock. Now, the Iranian people are experiencing it. Yazıcıoğlu’s death is a striking example of how the unexpected demise of a leader can impact the fate of a nation.

The tragic events involving the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian have added to the list of similar incidents in world history. However, this week marked a period as if, in the words of Vladimir Lenin, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” upsetting the balance.

Following the news that the Iranian President and the Foreign Minister died in a helicopter crash along with seven others, Tehran declared five days of mourning. The arrest warrant request by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for leading figures in Israel and Hamas remained overshadowed by the above tragedy. Then, the most crucial news was the British courts granting Julian Assange the right to appeal against the British government’s decision to extradite him to the US.

In 2021, the elected President Ibrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, after tensions with Pakistan and attacks on militant groups in the border province of Baluchistan, were guests in Islamabad last month. Last Sunday, they were returning from a dam opening at the Azerbaijan border, attended by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, traveling in an old US-designed helicopter in adverse weather conditions in mountainous terrain. Initially, Tehran was reluctant to accept this accident. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tried to reassure the public before official sources announced that there were no survivors in the crash.

After Raisi’s death, the first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, was temporarily appointed. He will remain in office until new presidential elections, which are to be held within 50 days. As in the past, while religious leaders obstruct a democratic race, their chosen candidates are expected to win. However, the leadership of former presidents like Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Rouhani, known for their resistance, is unforgettable. Even Ahmadinejad, known for his conservatism, caused enough trouble for religious leaders and had disagreements.

Along with the 85-year-old Khamenei, Raisi was nominated as the sole candidate for the country’s spiritual leadership. Khamenei, who became the second supreme leader after Ruhollah Khomeini’s death 10 years earlier in 1979, was featured in a special issue of Khaleej Times. The only photo of Khomeini with a foreign leader, taken after the revolution with Yasser Arafat, appeared on the front page of the newspaper. From the early days of the Iranian revolution to today, the Palestinian leader has been an unwanted person.

Iran has recently been at the forefront as the most prominent Middle Eastern country opposing the genocide in Gaza. Raisi had long been blamed for sparking the rebellion against the Pahlavi dynasty, which ruled the Iranian Imperial State for 54 years. His death was joyously received by Iranians who had fled the oppressive regime and were engaged in a resistance struggle. Raisi was seen as a symbol of the regime’s harsh policies and repression, and now, the Iranian people believe his death could bring hope for change in the country.

There are also comments that Israel could have had a hand in Raisi’s death. Such speculations are not surprising, considering the deep animosity between Iran and Israel and Israel’s efforts to wield influence in the region. Past Israeli attempts to target Iran’s nuclear program through assassination and sabotage form the basis of such claims. However, these claims remain speculative and unsupported by concrete evidence so far.

If the US had not conspired 70 years ago to turn Iran into an Israel-friendly Middle Eastern satellite, Iran might have been a very different country today. Today, Joe Biden, rolling up his sleeves to defend Israel, rejects the ICC’s placement of Hamas and the Zionist regime on the same scale. The military superiority of the Israel Defense Forces is maintained through the continuous supply of US military equipment.

The ICC’s effort, condemned by Hamas, Israel, and Biden, has not yet been accepted by the court, but it highlights the value of the attempt itself. Neither Israeli nor Hamas leaders are likely to be tried in The Hague. However, this first step towards accountability might extinguish the fires of a genocidal war. Germany announced yesterday that it would implement the ICC’s arrest warrant if approved.

WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, exposed the brutality of America’s military ventures, hence the Trump and Biden administrations collaborated to silence him. British authorities do not wish to release him without Washington’s approval.

Similar Accidents in History

The tragic helicopter crash in Iran reminds us of similar incidents in world history where important leaders lost their lives. In 1961, United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died when his plane crashed while en route to peace talks in Congo. This incident is still remembered as a mysterious tragedy.

In 1986, Mozambique President Samora Machel died when his plane crashed near the South African border. Poor weather conditions and technical failures were cited as the causes, but sabotage was also suspected.

In 1994, the plane carrying Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down, triggering the Rwandan genocide. Who shot the plane is still debated.

In 1988, Pakistan’s President General Zia-ul-Haq, US Ambassador Arnold Raphel, and several senior Pakistani military officials died in a plane crash. The cause of the crash remains controversial, with some suggesting sabotage. In 1999, US President John F. Kennedy’s son, John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette, and sister-in-law died when their small plane crashed.

In 2010, Polish President Lech Kaczyński and top officials died in a plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, due to poor weather conditions and pilot error.

The deaths of Raisi and the foreign minister will clarify their impact on Iran’s domestic politics and international relations over time. These events illustrate the risks state leaders and significant figures take and how such tragedies can create ripples in international politics.

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YÜKSEL DURGUT is a journalist with a primary focus on global politics and foreign affairs. He serves as the Foreign Relations Director of the International Journalists Association e.V. and holds the position of Editor-in-Chief at Journalist Post.

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