Millions Turn Out for Rafsanjani’s Funeral in Tehran


Source: Xinhua

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of Iran from 1989 to 1997, and a leading figure in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, died on January 8 at the age of 82.

Tuesday’s funeral was attended by reformist and hard-line political, military, and religious figures, including current President Hassan Rouhani and Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani. Disqualified from running for the 2013 presidency, Rafsanjani supported Rouhani for the position. Rouhani’s win gave the former president an insider role in reform efforts, including the new president’s push for rapprochement with the West. With Rouhani’s efforts toward re-election in the upcoming May elections, the loss of Rafsanjani is seen as a major setback.

An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets to bid farewell to Rafsanjani. Authorities were reportedly forced to raise the volume on the loudspeakers playing songs of mourning after some in the crowds shouted support slogans for prominent reformist leaders under house arrest. An anonymous Iranian citizen journalist wrote that “one group…started chanting: ‘Loudspeakers are yours; the voice of justice is ours!’”

The U.S. State Department commented on January 9 that Rafsanjani had been “a prominent figure throughout the history of Iran” and “consequential” in its recent history. It also acknowledged that he was an “individual with a history of actions and decisions…that we didn’t approve of in many ways…”

Gary Sick, President Jimmy Carter’s top Iran aide, downplayed Rafsanjani’s role in current and future politics, because “since 2009, [his]…role has been limited” and “he was a waning force” but ultimately “there’s [not] much difference.” Sohrab Ahmari critiqued Rafsanjani as Iran’s “mythical moderate,” while Robin Wright acknowledged Rafsanjani’s role in a number of controversial events, but said “compared to the other theocrats he was a political pragmatist.”