The recent death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, often referred to as the “Butcher of Tehran,” in a helicopter crash has evoked a wave of mixed reactions globally. Lithuanian courageously refused to offer ‘official condolences,’ while other official institutions, such as the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, did extend formal condolences and even flew their flags at half-mast. This second, appeasement-based approach is profoundly misguided. Instead of mourning the loss of Raisi, the focus should be squarely on highlighting the ongoing oppression and human rights violations in Iran—a legacy that Raisi himself epitomized.

Ebrahim Raisi’s tenure in various high-ranking positions within the Iranian regime was marked by brutal repression and egregious human rights abuses. His notorious nickname, the “Butcher of Tehran,” is a testament to his involvement in the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. Human rights organizations have documented his role in these atrocities, where thousands were systematically executed after sham trials. Raisi’s ascendancy to the presidency in 2021, reinforced the current regime’s commitment to silencing dissent and perpetuating a culture of fear and oppression.

In light of such a legacy, the response from the U.S. State Department and the United Nations is inappropriate and deeply insensitive to the victims of Raisi’s policies. Issuing formal condolences and flying flags at half-mast can only be perceived as a tacit endorsement or at least a minimization of his brutal actions. These gestures of mourning are traditionally reserved for leaders who have contributed positively to their nations or the global community, not for those whose tenure is stained with the blood of innocents

Instead of offering condolences, these institutions should have seized the moment to reiterate their commitment to a free Iran, protecting human rights, and pursuing justice. This was a missed opportunity to stand in solidarity with the countless Iranians who continue to suffer under a repressive regime. The U.S. could have been a global leader if they had chosen to support Iranian civil society, amplify the voices of dissidents, and push for the release of political prisoners. Instead, it chose the path of least resistance and selected the easier wrong over the harder right.

Raisi’s death will not change the current situation in Iran, but every opportunity to advocate for the oppressed and demand accountability should be embraced.