Photo shows 2020 mourners for Iranian general, not Raisi

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched in Ebrahim Raisi's hometown to bid farewell to the nation's late president after he died in a May 2024 helicopter crash, but an image of mourners swarming the streets does not show his funeral. The photo being misrepresented online was taken during a procession for Qasem Soleimani, a top general killed by a US drone strike in 2020.

"West says Raisi was unpopular in Iran. I saw millions of people at his funeral," says a May 22, 2024 post on X, which includes an aerial shot of a coffin-carrying truck surrounded by a sea of people.

Screenshot from X taken May 24, 2024

Similar posts spread across X and other platforms, including Instagram, in the days after Raisi's death.

Raisi, 63, was confirmed dead after an all-night search and rescue effort located the mangled wreckage of his helicopter, which crashed May 19 in the country's mountainous northwest as he returned from East Azerbaijan province.

The Iranian president was laid to rest May 23 in his hometown of Mashhad, concluding days of funeral ceremonies attended by throngs of mourners across Iran.

Video and pictures show mourners filling the streets of Mashhad.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 23, 2024 shows Iranian mourners attending the funeral of late president Ebrahim Raisi in the city of Mashhad (Iranian Presidency / -)

But the photo shared online predates Raisi's death by several years.

Reverse image searches surfaced the picture in articles from the Iranian Tasnim News Agency and other websites about the crowds that watched as the remains of Qasem Soleimani, who spearheaded Iran's Middle East operations and was killed in a drone strike ordered by former US president Donald Trump, were paraded through the streets (archived here and here).

Screenshot from Tasnim News Agency taken May 24, 2024

Nearly identical photos provided to AFP show the same packed streets during the funeral procession, held January 5, 2020 in Mashhad.

Iranians gather around a vehicle carrying the coffins of slain major general Qasaem (Qasem) Soleimani and others as they pay homage in the northeastern city of Mashhad on January 5, 2020 (TASNIM NEWS / MOHAMMAD TAGHI)

AFP has debunked other misinformation about Raisi's death here, here, here and here.

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