Thousands Attend Funeral of Former Iranian Leader Hashemi Rafsanjani

(Photo: IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER OFFICIAL WEBSITE HANDOUT, EPA)
(Photo: IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER OFFICIAL WEBSITE HANDOUT, EPA)

Hundreds of thousands of mourners descended on the streets of the Iranian capital of Tehran on Tuesday for the funeral of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The assembled crowds wailed and beat their chests in the streets.

Rafsanjani died Sunday at the age of 82 in a hospital in the capital. The cause of death was a heart attack, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led the prayers at the funeral ceremony at Tehran University. Rafsanjani will be buried in the mausoleum of his ally, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, IRNA reported.

The moderate current President Hassan Rouhani and hard-liners including Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force — responsible for operations outside Iran — also took part in the ceremony.

Rafsanjani, who helped found the Islamic republic and served as president between 1989 and 1997, was an influential leader, political survivor and multimillionaire.

“I rarely attend religious ceremonies, but I am here as an Iranian who cannot forget Rafsanjani’s contribution to developing political sphere in favor of people in recent years,” Nima Sheikhi, a computer teacher at a private school, told the Associated Press as Rafsanjani’s casket traveled through the streets.

Reza Babei, a cleric from the eastern town of Birjand, said: “I am here to say goodbye to a man who dedicated his life to make Iran better. He founded the university in my city and developed our region when he was in power,” according to the AP.

The White House sent condolences to Rafsanjani’s family on Monday.

“He was a consequential figure inside Iran,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “As for what potential impact this may have for Iranian policy, I wouldn’t speculate.”

SOURCE: Jane Onyanga-Omara
USA TODAY