PHOTO: Mourners surround the coffin of Hashemi Rafsanjani as it is taken to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini


Funeral services have been held for Iran’s former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who suddenly died on Sunday.

Crowds have gathered in Tehran for Rafsanjani, who led the Government from 1989 to 1997 and continued to be an influential figure in Iranian politics, despite efforts to curb him after the disputed 2009 Presidential election.


The Supreme Leader — whose office guided the maneuvers to contain the former President after he supported the right to protest against the supposed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — led the service at Tehran University, before the body was moved to the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani are in the procession.

But former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who succeeded Rafsanjani from 1997 to 2005, has been barred from attending. Video is showing some in the crowd chanting, “The will of Hashemi is supporting Khatami”:

Iranian State media, which often tried to ignore or diminish Rafsanjani in recent years, are hailing the “huge crowds of mourners” and calling the former President an “Ayatollah” — the esteemed clerical rank which the Supreme Leader refused to condone in his letter of condolence over Rafsanjani’s death.

The Rouhani Government declared three days of national mourning, and flags are being flown at half-mast at Iranian embassies.


Top regime officials, including Supreme Leader and President Rouhani, beside Hashemi Rafsanjani’s coffin

Rafsanjani and the Supreme Leader were the last two surviving members of Ayatollah Khomeini’s inner circle at the time of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Months before his election as President, Rafsanjani — as chair of the Assembly of Experts — was instrumental in the selection of Ayatollah Khamenei to succeed Khomeini

Despite the pressure on him since 2009 — including his removal as a Tehran Friday Prayers leader; the loss of his chair of the Assembly; and imprisonment of two of his children — Rafsanjani remained the head of the Expediency Council, with its mediating role between Iran’s Guardian Council and the Government.

Barred from standing in the 2013 Presidential election, Rafsanjani gained influence through the surprise victory of his protégé Rouhani. He was instrumental in the development of the centrist-reformist List of Hope bloc which won the largest share of seats in the February 2016 Parliamentary elections.

However, Rafsanjani continued to face hardline criticism. He had to pull back the suggestion that the Supreme Leader, upon his death, be replaced by a five-cleric council with a limited term, and to restrict comments on the opening up of political space, including the freeing of political prisoners. His renewed promotion of reconciliation with Saudi Arabia was undermined by the breaking of relations between Riyadh and Tehran in January 2016.


A mourner holds up a photograph of President Rouhani and Hashemi Rafsanjani

Reformist Journalist Tabatabaie Freed After Year in Prison

Reformist journalist Reyhaneh Tabatabaie has been released from Evin Prison after serving a one-year sentence.

Tabatabie was arrested in November 2014, soon after a five-month imprisonment, amid a crackdown by the Revolutionary Guards and hardliners on media personnel. She was sentenced a year later and banned from working in the media for two years

Her “crimes” included interviews of Iranian Sunni leaders, criticism of conservative politicians on Facebook, and public support of reformists.