Huge Crowds Bid Emotional Farewell to Hashemi
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered in central Tehran on Tuesday for the funeral of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Ayatollah Rafsanjani was laid to rest in the mausoleum south of Tehran by his revered guide, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic Republic.
The 82-year-old statesman, who had spent over 60 years in politics, was taken to a Tehran hospital after suffering a massive heart attack on Sunday evening and hours-long efforts to revive him failed.
His demise came as a surprise to many Iranians, as they knew of no record of illness and the ayatollah was still holding public office.
Funeral prayers over Rafsanjani's body were led by the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei at the University of Tehran, where the distinguished cleric had delivered speeches during Friday prayers for years.
Politicians, military commanders and religious figures of all persuasions stood behind the Leader.
Mournful Iranians from different walks of life flooded central Tehran in cold winter weather to pay tribute and bid farewell to the popular cleric, while his casket was taken in a procession to the resting place.
They held black banners and posters of the Leader and Ayatollah Rafsanjani, one of which said "Goodbye, old combatant".
An official commemoration ceremony is to be held on Wednesday morning in Tehran.
The government has announced three days of public mourning and declared Tuesday a public holiday.
The highly influential politician went to Qom in southern Tehran in the early 1960s to attend theological courses, where he joined opponents of the US-backed monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
He whole-heartedly helped the movement that led to the victory of Islamic Revolution of 1979 and suffered hardship and torture in Shah's notorious prisons for years.
Over the past four decades after the revolution, Rafsanjani had always been intimately involved in the policymaking and running of the country throughout its most perilous days.
He served as Tehran's Friday prayer leader (1982-2009), interior minister (1979-80), parliament speaker (1980-89) and president (1989-97).
The tireless politician, who has been described as a "pillar of the revolution", also led the military in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) and played a central role in efforts that culminated in the end of the eight-year war.
Because of Ayatollah Rafsanjani's tireless efforts to rebuild the country after the devastating war, Iranians hailed him as the Champion of Construction.
After the end of his presidency, the seasoned political figure was appointed as chairman of the Expediency Council, a post he held until his passing.
The ayatollah was also a senior member of the Assembly of Experts, a body tasked with overseeing the Leader and appointing a successor to him, and was its chairman from 2007 to 2011.
*** Old Friend
Ayatollah Khamenei, in a statement published Sunday night, described the distinguished cleric as an "old friend and companion during the struggles of the Islamic revolutionary movement".
Ayatollah Khamenei said the loss was "difficult and painful" for him, pointing to his 59-year experience of working with Rafsanjani "on a common path that was marked by diligence, endurance and risk taking".
"His abundant intelligence and his unique sincerity in those years was a reliable source of support for all those who worked with him," he said.
The sudden passing received considerable global attention and captured headlines in many international news outlets.
Messages of condolences have poured in both from abroad and across the whole domestic spectrum.
President Hassan Rouhani tweeted on Sunday, "The soul of the great man of the revolution and politics has soared to the sky."
Even the White House sent a message, unprecedented since the 1979 revolution that led to severance of ties between Tehran and Washington.
"Former president Rafsanjani was a prominent figure throughout the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States sends our condolences to his family and loved ones," spokesman Josh Ernest said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South African President Jacob Zuma, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iraqi President Muhammad Fuad Masum, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Oman's Sultan Qaboos, Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani were among foreign officials who extended condolences over Rafsanjani's demise.