Iranians 'urged to mourn' president Ebrahim Raisi as funeral events begin

Anti-government protesters in Iran have told Sky News they have received calls from officials urging them to attend mourning events for late president Ebrahim Raisi.

The activists, who did not want to be named, said authorities were "desperate" for public displays of sadness following the leader's death in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

It comes after Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of national mourning, with funeral events getting under way yesterday.

Iranian media said the crash near the country's border with Azerbaijan killed a total of eight people, including Mr Raisi's foreign minister and three helicopter crew members.

On Tuesday the late president's coffin was flown to Tabriz - the closest major city to the crash site - with state TV showing mourners lining the streets to pay their respects.

However, activists told Sky News that many others in Iran were either indifferent or even happy about his death, with some taking the opportunity of a public holiday to go shopping or pursue leisure activities instead.

Activists claim there is widespread hatred of the regime within Iran amid crackdowns on dissent, corruption, falling living standards and the persecution of women by the government's "morality police".

One anti-government protester said: "We keep receiving messages and calls from different governmental institutions, inviting us to different mourning events. They’re really desperately trying to get people to go.

"But I don't think many people will show up, and anyone that does, is most certainly one of their own. For ordinary people, this is just another day."

They said that conspiracy theories about the crash were rife on social media due to distrust of the government and said there was little appetite for upcoming "show" elections next month to decide who the new president will be.

They added: "We are not planning on going to the ballot box. By boycotting the elections, we are demonstrating that we don’t want the regime of the Islamic republic."

After being taken to Tabriz, Mr Raisi's body was then flown to the capital Tehran before it heads to the holy city of Qom.

From there, it will return to the capital to lie at Tehran's Grand Mosalla Mosque before being transferred to the late president's hometown of Mashhad, in eastern Iran, for his burial on Thursday.

Events are also being held for the other crash victims across the country.

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However, another activist told Sky News: "I am extremely happy about what’s happened... For the first time in my life, I am happy to hear that someone has died. I never thought I'd say that."

They said security appeared to have been stepped up on the streets, suggesting that the "regime is clearly scared" of dissent.

"We’re talking about a murderer, that millions of Iranians have been wishing for years, that him and his gang get prosecuted and to face justice in a proper court," the activist said.

"But this time, nature stepped in. As if even nature could no longer bear so much cruelty."

The anti-government protester added: "My plan in the coming days is to continue our fight with more energy and enthusiasm. And to continue [to keep] the hope alive that the abolition of cruelty is not so out of reach after all. It will certainly happen one day."

They added that the regime was "as always, trying to put on a show, so that they can make things seem in their favour....

"In a rather stupid manner, they are trying to engineer an atmosphere, as always, to pretend like things are going their way. But I don’t think this will pay off."