Iran bids farewell to former president Rafsanjani in a show of unity
Published: 2017-01-10 16:35:46.0 BdST Updated: 2017-01-10 16:36:55.0 BdST
Tens of thousands of Iranians massed in central Tehran on Tuesday for the funeral of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a show of unity to honor the Islamic Republic's polarizing pragmatist.
Rafsanjani, who died on Sunday aged 82, will be buried in the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the country's Islamic revolution in 1979 and founded the country's system of theocratic rule.
Rafsanjani's pragmatic policies of economic liberalization and better relations with the West attracted fierce supporters and equally fierce critics during his life, but his funeral brought both sides together in a show of solidarity and unity.
Popularly known as a "pillar of the Revolution", he wielded wide influence in core decision-making bodies of Iran.
In a move seen at the time as power-sharing, he played a significant role in 1989 to appoint Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to succeed Khomeini as new supreme leader of Iran.
Rafsanjani was elected as new president a few months later.
However, their friendship gradually turned into rivalry as the pragmatist president sided with reformists who promoted freedoms, while Khamenei followed a conservative interpretation of the core values of the Islamic Republic.
In his condolence message, Khamenei said political differences could never "entirely break up" his nearly 60 years of friendship with Rafsanjani.
Streets were filled overnight with billboards that showed a picture of the two men smiling and chatting as close friends.
"No one would be like Hashemi for me," the billboards quoted Khamenei as saying, using Rafsanjani's first family name. Iranians usually have two family names.
"Ayatollah Hashemi tried all his life to save the Islamic Revolution ... He wanted to preserve the unity of Iran," his son Mohsen was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA at the funeral.
An eyewitness told Reuters on the phone from Tehran that "some were chanting slogans asking political prisoners to be released, some hardliners were shouting Death to America. But they didn't clash. Everyone were respectful."
Khamenei said the final prayer over Rafsanjani's body in the University of Tehran courtyard where the late president delivered many of his speeches during Friday prayers.
Politicians, military commanders and religious figures from all camps stood behind him.
The president, head of parliament, head of the judiciary and senior Khamenei advisors stood in the first line at the service, while cabinet ministers and the deceased leader's relatives filled the rows behind them.
Rafsanjani's body, sealed in a metal coffin with his white turban on top, was then brought in procession down Revolution Street in central Tehran, where tens of thousands of people came out in cold winter weather to pay tribute.
State television channels broadcast the funeral live from early hours in the morning, highlighting the massive outpouring of public respect for the former president.
Among those attending were Revolutionary Guards Commander Qassem Soleimani, leading Iranian Sunni cleric Molavi Abdolhamid, several grandsons of Khomeini and even some movie stars, showing how Rafsanjani enjoyed respect from opposing figures in Iran.
Mohamad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president and reformist cleric, said on Twitter that "it is difficult to imagine Iran without Hashemi Rafsanjani. He had different opponents in different eras, but they all believed in his greatness and the role he was playing to resolve issues."
Rafsanjani's death ahead of May's presidential election was a blow to moderate president Hassan Rouhani, who allied himself with him to win the 2013 election and went on to resolve Iran's long standoff with the West over its nuclear program.
Rafsanjani was a member of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that selects the supreme leader, Iran's most powerful figure. His absence from that debate, whenever it happens, means the chances of a pragmatist emerging as the next supreme leader are reduced.
Any unauthorised use or reproduction of bdnews24.com content for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited and constitutes copyright infringement liable to legal action.
- Canada House of Commons passes anti-Islamophobia Motion M-103
- Russian police detain opposition leader, dozens of protesters
- Iran sanctions 15 US firms, citing human rights and Israel ties
- Iran denies harassing US warships in Gulf, warns of clashes
- US strike kills an al Qaeda 'leader' in Afghanistan: Pentagon
- Iraqi military says 61 bodies found in collapsed Mosul building
- Communal strife in home state of India's Modi kills one, 14 hurt
- Multiple people shot in Ohio night club: police
- UK police still believe London attacker was acting alone
- Hong Kong chooses new Beijing-backed leader amid political tension
- Bangladesh to celebrate 46th Independence Day Sunday
- Two killed, more ‘well-trained’ militants inside, says army in Sylhet anti-terror operation
- Donald Trump greets Abdul Hamid, Sheikh Hasina on Bangladesh’s Independence Day
- It seems the army has settled for a long haul in Sylhet to neutralise the militants
- Army commandos end assault on militant hideout in Sylhet
- Gunfire, blasts heard as Sylhet militant hideout siege enters third day
- Police put on alert across country
- At least one killed, 20 injured in blast near militant den being raided by army commandos
- RAB intelligence chief injured in Sylhet blasts airlifted to Dhaka
- RAB Intelligence chief being taken to Singapore for treatment